What is malignant external otitis?
Malignant external otitis is a serious infection of your ear canal. It's not cancer, even though the word "malignant" usually refers to cancer.
Your ear canal is the tube that connects the outside of your ear to your eardrum. This infection is lifethreatening because it spreads from your ear canal into the surrounding bone of your skull.
Bacteria (including MRSA Staphylococcus aureus Infections Staphylococcus ("staph") are a common group of bacteria. Some types of staph normally live on people's skin and in the environment and don't cause disease. Other types of staph, particularly... read more ) cause the infection (MRSA means methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
Although it's called "malignant," malignant external otitis isn't a type of cancer
The risk of malignant external otitis is higher if you have diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more or a weakened immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more
If untreated, it can spread and can paralyze the nerves in your face so that you're unable to move parts of your face
Doctors treat malignant external otitis with antibiotics into your vein through a tube
The Outer Ear
What are the symptoms of malignant external otitis?
Severe ear pain
Thick, bad smelling fluid draining from your ear
How can doctors tell if I have malignant external otitis?
Doctors will do a CT scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more to look for infection in the bone around your ear. They’ll also take samples of tissue and fluid from your ear to find out what types of bacteria are causing your infection.
How do doctors treat malignant external otitis?
You may need to stay in the hospital at first. Doctors will:
Give you antibiotics by vein through a tube (IV)
Clean out your ear canal
Sometimes, do surgery to remove badly infected bone
Because the infection is in the bone, you'll need to get IV antibiotics for about 6 weeks. But after you start getting better, you can usually finish getting the antibiotics at home.