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Swimmer's ear, or otitis externa, is mainly caused by prolonged exposure of the ear canal to moisture or water. If the treatment is not implemented on time, it can lead to serious complications, even requiring the intervention of a surgeon, so timely diagnosis is very important. Check what are the causes and symptoms of the so-called swimmer's ear (otitis externa) and how to treat this troublesome condition.

Swimmer's ear , i.e.otitis externa , is an infectious disease. Inflammation occurs when the external ear canal is constantly exposed to moisture and water. Moisture creates ideal conditions for the development of bacterial or fungal infections.

Swimmer's ear (otitis externa) - causes

The most common cause of otitis externa is regular exposure to water and moisture (this especially applies to professional swimmers - hence the name of the disease). Frequent exposure to water causes excessive washing out of the natural earwax, which ensures an adequate level of ear hydration. In such cases, the development of infection is also favored by insufficient drying of the ear after leaving the water.

This disease also affects people who take baths in dirty water reservoirs in the summer. Heat and water are favorable conditions for the development of fungi and bacteria.

Infection can also occur in places where increased air humidity is accompanied by high temperatures, e.g. in saunas or in tropical countries.

The residual wax in the ear also increases the moisture and stickiness of the outer ear, which is why personal hygiene is so important.

The factors contributing to the development of otitis are also headphones that are put too deeply in the ears and wearing a hearing aid.

The risk of infection increases if the external ear canal is irritated, for example, when drying the ear with a cotton swab and removing part of the epidermis at the same time.

Swimmer's ear (otitis externa) - symptoms

The essence of the disease is damage to the external auditory canal ending with the eardrum and the auricle, which causes inflammation. This type of damage promotes the growth of and fungibacteria.

A symptom of otitis media is swelling and redness in the organs that make up the outer ear. In such a situation, it is difficult for the auricle to pick up the vocal waves that make the eardrum vibrate, which may result in hearing impairment or even hearing loss.

Other symptoms are also changes in the skin of the ear. The skin is red and blisters appear on the skin, filled with secretions colored with blood.

Othersymptoms of otitis externais:

  • feeling of stuffy ears
  • ear itching
  • earache, worsening when eating and drinking
  • feeling of leakage from the ear
  • fever

Damage to the eardrum often contributes to severe ear inflammation, which can be the beginning of serious and painful complications. Not only people whose inflammation has moved to the deeper structures of the hearing organs, but also people with impaired immunity or other diseases, such as diabetes, are exposed to side effects. In such cases, malignant otitis externa may develop. This infection affects not only the outer ear, but also the skin, subcutaneous tissue, cartilage, bones of the ear and its nervous system, which can lead to paresis or paralysis of the facial nerve on the inflammatory side.

Swimmer's ear (otitis externa) - treatment

In case of otitis externa, go to a doctor (otolaryngologist) who will perform an otoscopy, i.e. ear endoscopy, and a dermatologist who will take a swab from the ear for bacteriological examination. Based on the test results, the appropriate treatment is determined.

In the case of a bacterial infection, it is usually recommended to administer antibiotic drops in the ear, sometimes oral antibiotics. Pain can be reduced with over-the-counter medications. It is also important to systematically clean the external ear canal by a doctor.

In turn, the basis for the treatment of fungal infections is the mechanical cleaning of the external auditory canal (by a doctor) and the administration of antifungal drugs.

If the disease occurs, also:

  • give up swimming
  • cover the ear while washing to prevent it from coming into contact with water
  • avoid drafts
  • use warm compresses to ease the earache (it can be a warm towel or an electric pillow)

Swimmer's ear - how to prevent otitis externa?

1. After a long stay in the water, gently and thoroughly dry your ears. It's good to know thatThe use of a cotton bud often damages the external ear canal and promotes the development of inflammation, so it is better to reach for a towel.

2. Avoid bathing areas such as rivers and lakes. It is better to choose a regularly cleaned swimming pool (then the risk of infection is lower).

3. If you are scuba diving or swimming regularly, wear appropriate earplugs. You can also use the correct drops to maintain the correct level of moisture in the ear.

4. When cleaning your ears, do not remove earwax completely, as it has an important protective function and protects the external ear canal by moisturizing it properly.

5. If you wear a hearing aid, make sure to clean it regularly. Appliances can cause infections as they clog the ear and increase the humidity of the external ear canal.

6. As a prophylaxis against infections in the ear canal, use an earwax remover, such as an ear spray or regular paraffin, before swimming.

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