Prof. Dr. Şenol Polat

External Ear Canal Infections

External ear canal infections, characterized by the inflammation of the external ear canal, are a common health issue. Often referred to as “swimmer’s ear” in layman’s terms, this condition primarily stems from exposure to water. The infection begins when the skin lining the external ear canal is damaged, allowing microorganisms to settle in this area.

Both children and adults can be affected by these infections, which tend to occur more frequently during the summer months when people participate more in swimming activities. If left untreated, these infections can cause pain and discomfort, making early diagnosis and effective treatment crucial.

What is External Ear Inflammation?

External ear inflammation refers to the infection of the external ear canal and sometimes the earlobe by microorganisms. This condition usually results from bacterial infections, although fungal infections can also play a role in some cases. The infection starts with the disruption of the skin barrier in the ear canal, leading to symptoms like inflammation, redness, and pain. Moisture remaining in the ear after swimming is a primary factor that facilitates the development of this infection. The treatment for external ear inflammation typically focuses on keeping the affected area dry and using medications that target the infection.

Symptoms of External Ear Inflammation

The symptoms of external ear inflammation usually begin in the infected ear and can worsen over time. The most common symptoms include pain in the ear, discharge from the ear, a feeling of fullness in the ear, hearing loss, redness, and swelling around the ear, and sometimes fever. Pain can intensify when the ear is pulled or during chewing motions. Itching and discomfort in the infected area are also frequently reported symptoms. These symptoms necessitate early treatment to prevent the spread of the infection and reduce complications.

Causes of External Ear Inflammation

The most common cause of external ear inflammation is exposure to water, especially chlorinated water or contaminated water. Water remaining in the ear canal for an extended period can disrupt the natural acid balance of the ear canal, leading to bacterial or fungal infections. Additionally, causing damage to the ear canal with objects such as cotton swabs during ear cleaning can also increase the risk of infection. Any trauma that damages the eardrum can create a conducive environment for infection development. Furthermore, individuals with chronic skin conditions may also be more prone to external ear canal infections.

Diagnosis of External Ear Inflammation

The diagnosis of external ear inflammation is typically made through a clinical examination. A health professional may use an otoscope to inspect the infected area. During this examination, the ear canal is evaluated for signs of redness, swelling, discharge, and any damage or injury. If necessary, samples taken from the ear can be sent for laboratory tests to determine the cause of the infection and to create a more specific treatment plan. These tests can identify whether the infection is bacterial or fungal.

Treatment of External Ear Inflammation

The treatment for external ear inflammation varies depending on the severity and type of infection. Mild cases can be managed by keeping the infected area dry and using pain relievers to alleviate pain. For more serious infections, ear drops containing topical antibiotics or antifungal medications may be prescribed. Severe infections or complicated cases may require oral antibiotics or more comprehensive treatments. During treatment, it is important to avoid water and other irritants. Additionally, to reduce the risk of damage during ear cleaning, the use of cotton swabs should be avoided.


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