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Quick Facts

Dermatitis of the Ear Canal


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020
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The ear canal is the tube that connects the outside of your ear to your eardrum.

"Derm" is a medical term for skin, and "-itis" means inflammation. So, dermatitis is inflamed skin. Dermatitis of the ear canal is itchy, flaky, and swollen skin at the opening of your ear and inside your ear canal.

The Outer Ear

The Outer Ear

What causes dermatitis of the ear canal?

There are 2 main causes:

  • An allergic reaction to something that touched your ear, for example, an earring or hair product you've been using

  • A skin problem, such as psoriasis or seborrhea, that affects your ear canal (and usually other parts of your body)

What are the symptoms of dermatitis of the ear canal?

You'll have symptoms in and around your ear canal, such as:

  • Itching

  • Redness

  • Cracked or peeling skin

  • Clear fluid leaking out of your ear

The cracked skin sometimes lets bacteria into the skin of your ear canal. The bacteria can cause an infection called external otitis.

How do doctors treat dermatitis of the ear canal?

Doctors will tell you to:

  • Stop using things that might be causing an allergic reaction, such as earrings, cosmetics or hearing aid molds—it may take trial and error to figure out what triggers the problem

  • Apply a corticosteroid cream or soothing ear drops to your ear

  • Keep cotton swabs, water, or objects out of your ear

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