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Otitis externa, what is it? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Otitis externa, also called “swimmer’s ear”, is an inflammation of the external canal of the ear. This inflammation usually causes pain, more or less intense. These are accompanied by irritation and itching. Appropriate treatment can limit the evolution of the disease.

Definition of otitis externa

Otitis externa is characterized by inflammation (redness and swelling) of the external canal of the ear. The latter is a canal located between the outer ear and the eardrum. In the majority of cases, only one of the two ears is impacted.

This affection of the outer ear is also called: Otitis of the bather. Indeed, frequent and / or prolonged exposure to water may be at the origin of the development of such otitis.

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The most common clinical signs of otitis externa are:

  • a pain, which can be very intense
  • itches
  • an evacuation of pus or liquid, from the ear
  • hearing difficulties or even a gradual loss of hearing

Appropriate treatment is available, and helps alleviate symptoms in a few days. Nevertheless, some cases can persevere and persist in time.

Causes of otitis externa

There are different origins of otitis externa.

The most common causes are:

  • a bacterial infection, mainly by Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Staphylococcus aureus.
  • a seborrheic dermatitis , a skin condition causing irritation and inflammation
  • a otitis media caused by infection of the deep ear
  • a fungal infection, caused by Aspergillus , or Candida albicans
  • an allergic reaction, as a result of taking medication, using earplugs, using an allergenic shampoo, etc.

Other risk factors are also known:

  • the practice of swimming, especially in open water
  • perspiration
  • a significant exposure to a humid environment
  • a scratch in the ear
  • excessive use of cotton stems
  • the use of ear plugs and / or headphones in an excessive manner
  • the use of sprays for the ears
  • hair dyes

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Evolution and possible complications of otitis externa

Although complications, associated with otitis externa, are rare. There is a low risk of negative evolution of the disease.

Among the possible evolutions, we can quote:

  • the formation of an abscess
  • the narrowing of the external canal of the ear
  • inflammation of the eardrum, resulting in perforation
  • a bacterial infection of the skin of the ear
  • malignant otitis externa: a rare but serious condition, characterized by an infection spreading to the bone around the ear.

Symptoms of otitis externa

Otitis externa can cause a number of clinical signs and symptoms. These include:

  • pain, more or less intense
  • itching and irritation, in and around on external canal of the ear
  • a feeling of stiffness and swelling of the outer ear
  • feeling of pressure in the ear
  • peeling skin around the ear
  • a progressive loss of hearing

Beyond these acute symptoms, chronic signs may also be associated with such a condition:

  • constant itching in and around the ear canal
  • persistent discomfort and pain

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How to prevent otitis externa?

Prevention of otitis externa is hardly possible. On the other hand, reducing the risk of developing such a condition is, and goes through:

  • avoidance of damage to the ear: limit the use of cottons, ear buds or earplugs
  • regularly clean his ears, but not excessively
  • prevent and treat other conditions in the ear (especially skin problems around the ear)

How to treat otitis externa?

Otitis externa can be treated effectively by the use of a suitable treatment in the form of drops. This treatment depends on the original cause of the disease. In this sense, it may be a prescription antibiotic (for the treatment of a bacterial infection), corticosteroids (limiting swelling), and antifungal (for the treatment of a fungal infection).

In the majority of cases, symptoms tend to increase at the beginning of treatment.

In addition, means can limit the worsening of symptoms:

    • avoid putting your ears in the water
    • avoid allergic and inflammatory risk (wearing earphones, earplugs, earrings, etc.)
  • in case of very severe pain, the prescription of anti-pain, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, is also possible.

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