Otitis externa, also known as outer ear infection or swimmers' ear is a common infection affecting the ear canal and outer parts of the ear. It usually starts with itching and irritation and can go on to be painful with discharge and hearing loss. Causes of ear infections include;
- Pre-existing ear problems such as eczema and psoriasis. These conditions result in minute breaks in the skin. This permits the entry of naughty bacteria which can cause ear infections. Consult your doctor about treatment for your skin condition in order to prevent ear infections recurring. You may need steroid cream or drops.
- Repeated immersion in water. This softens the delicate skin lining the ear canal (epithelium) and lets bacteria penetrate. MOlded ear plugs such as ours from http://zenplugs.com/molded-earplugs are ideal for protecting the ears.
- Exposure to irritants such as perfumes, soaps, shampoos and chlorinated water in pools. Don't leave shampoo and conditioner on for longer than you need to. If it runs into your ears wear some earplugs when you wash your hair.
- Exposure to bacteria in sea water, on dirty fingers and over-used foam ear plugs
- Foreign bodies in the ear, e.g. children putting beads in their ear canals
- Allergy to ear drops (suggested when infection gets worse despite treatment)
This is a list of the commonest and most relevant causes, not all of them are included.
Next week we will be talking about How To Prevent Otitis Externa.
Dr Toby Bateson for zenplugs.com.