What Causes Ear Infection Discharge?

It is common for people to get discharge from their ears when they have an ear infection.  There are two types of ear infections which cause the problem; outer ear infection and middle ear infection.  These are also known as otitis externa and otitis media.  Sometimes discharge is just wax that has melted and run out of the ear when the person has a high temperature from any cause. This tends to be yellowy orange.

Otitis externa is also known as swimmer's ear. It tends to cause less discharge than otitis media.  The skin of the outer ear becomes damaged and swollen because of irritants such as soap and perfumes in beauty products.  It can also occur from water in the ear dissolving the protective outer layer. The inflammation makes the blood capillaries in the skin leaky, causing swelling.  If the outer layer of skin is damaged this fluid leaks out and runs out of the ear.  If the skin of the ear has bacteria growing in it then the body fights it with white blood cells.  When these die they they form creamy pus which can also form discharge.  Sometimes the damaged skin bleeds because it is damaged, making the discharge bloody.

Middle ear infection is slightly different.  The same processes I have described above also happen in the middle ear. Blockage of the tube which drains the air space in the middle ear causes fluid to build up behind the ear drum.  It tends to stretch it causing severe pain. Sometimes the drum bursts, relieving the pain and allowing the infected discharge to run out of the ear.  Sometimes the drum bleeds a bit when it is torn so there is blood in the discharge.

If you have discharge from your ears or any other ear problem you should see your doctor.  This article is not a substitute for medical advice.

Dr Toby Bateson for The ZenPlugs Website