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Otitis externa (OE) is a type of ear infection - an infection of the ear canal, sometimes called 'swimmer’s ear'. Because the canal is dark and warm, it can easily get infected with bacteria and fungus. Usually the entire canal is involved, but a external auditory canal furuncle can be considered a localized form of OE. Diffuse OE is typically a bacterial infection, the most common pathogens being Pseudomonas, Staphylococci, and Proteus, but fungi may also be involved (most commonly Aspergillus and Candida). OE can spread to affect surrounding tissues. OE is different from the kind of infection you get in the middle part of your ear. That kind of infection is called otitis media. Several things can make OE more likely, including the following:
Your doctor will inspect your ear and remove any drainage, pus and possibly wax. They will also make sure that the infection is not deeper. Most OE infections can be treated with ear drops, but sometimes pills are needed.
Your doctor will tell you how, how long and how often to use your ear drops. Warm the bottle in your hands before putting the drops in your ear. Using warm ear drops may keep you from getting dizzy when the drops go in. Sometimes cotton is inserted afterwards to hold the medication in.
While OE can be hard to treat, there are things you can do to help, as well as prevent recurrence.
Conventional therapy may consist of combination antibiotic/steroid drops. Sometimes a wick is placed in the canal. The ear wick is typically a dried sponge which is inserted into the canal. It helps wick ear drops along the canal, holds the solution in contact with the skin of the canal, and also applies pressure to the canal skin. Wicks are removed at 2 days, and can be replaced then if necessary.
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Bacteria: Microscopic germs. Some bacteria are "harmful" and can cause disease, while other "friendly" bacteria protect the body from harmful invading organisms.
Candidiasis: Infection of the skin or mucous membrane with any species of candida, usually Candida albicans. The infection is usually localized to the skin, nails, mouth, vagina, bronchi, or lungs, but may invade the bloodstream. It is a common inhabitant of the GI tract, only becoming a problem when it multiplies excessively and invades local tissues. Growth is encouraged by a weakened immune system, as in AIDS, or with the prolonged administration of antibiotics. Vaginal symptoms include itching in the genital area, pain when urinating, and a thick odorless vaginal discharge.
Otitis Externa: Also called Swimmer’s Ear, this is an infection of the outer ear canal caused by either fungus or bacteria. Water that remains trapped in the ear canal (when swimming, for example) can provide a breeding ground for these bacteria and fungi. Symptoms include redness of the outer ear; itching in the ear; pain, especially when touching or wiggling the earlobe; drainage from the ear; swollen glands in the neck; a swollen ear canal; hearing loss.
Otitis Media: A very common condition involving inflammation of the middle ear and can be classified as either acute otitis media (AOM), or otitis media with effusion (OME) which is a chronic disease. It most commonly affects infants and young children but can affect all age groups. Symptoms of AOM include earache, decreased hearing, fever, unsteadiness, and occasionally liquid discharge if the eardrum bursts. Symptoms of OME include decreased hearing, tinnitus and unsteadiness, but OME can be entirely without symptoms. Effusions (discharges) continue for several weeks after AOM; only 60% of ears with AOM are clear at 2 weeks and 80% are clear by 8 weeks.
Psoriasis: An inherited skin disorder in which there are red patches with thick, dry silvery scales. It is caused by the body making too-many skin cells. Sores may be anywhere on the body but are more common on the arms, scalp, ears, and the pubic area. A swelling of small joints may go along with the skin disease.
Steroid: Any of a large number of hormonal substances with a similar basic chemical structure containing a 17-carbon 14-ring system and including the sterols and various hormones and glycosides.