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Health Information

Otitis externa

Summary/Definition

The human external ear canal extends from the auricle to the tympanic membrane. Acute otitis externa is an acute infection of the skin of the ear canal, usually caused by bacteria, fungi and other factors. Since the external ear canal is in constant contact with the surrounding environment, it has its own defence mechanisms, and earwax is one of them. Acute otitis externa most often develops in summer, when people, after swimming in pools, baths and other similar places, have a habit of picking their ears. In some cases, the infection can be caused by bacteria or fungi. In addition, otitis externa can be the result of allergic reactions or skin diseases. It is distinguished from atopic dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis by the presence of itching in the ears, which is characteristic of this condition.

▲ National Health Information Service, Korea Agency for Disease Control and Prevention, “Otitis externa”

Symptoms

Discomfort and itching in the ear canal occur at the beginning. Then severe pain may develop, which can significantly interfere with sleeping, travelling and eating. One of the most characteristic symptoms of acute otitis externa is increased pain when pulling the auricle or pressing on the area around the ear. As inflammation increases, pus may ooze from the ear or temporary hearing loss may occur. The initial stages of acute otitis externa are characterized by itching and a feeling of congestion in the ear, while chronic otitis externa is usually accompanied by constant itching.

Diagnostics

In most cases, acute otitis externa is diagnosed on the basis of clinical examination, otoscopy and endoscopy of the ear canal. In the presence of discharge or purulent secretions, bacteriological analysis, audiometric examination and radiography may be necessary.

Treatment and course of the disease

The treatment of acute otitis externa aims to relieve pain, clear the ear canal and promote healing with appropriate medication. This includes cleaning and disinfecting the ear and prescribing antibiotics and painkillers. If necessary, antibiotics may be injected into the ear canal in the form of drops. If a pus pocket (furuncle) has formed, it should be cut open and drained. It is also a good idea to get into the habit of drying your ears thoroughly after bathing.

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