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Otitis externa is an inflammation, irritation, or infection of the outer ear canal. This is the channel leading from the outer ear to the ear drum. Water that stays trapped in the ear canal (such as when swimming) may:
It is more common in children but can also happen in adults. Many things can raise the chance of getting swimmer's ear. One of the factors is excessive wetness. This can occur with frequent swimming, but it can also happen for other reasons. Other possible causes of this infection include:
You are at a higher risk for otitis externa if your outer ear is exposed to conditions that may harm the skin. This lets bacteria get into the skin. Devices that are routinely worn within the ear canal can cause damage and irritation. This includes hearing aids, headphones, or ear plugs.
If you are exposed to conditions that remove the protective layers from the skin, you are more likely to get infected with bacteria or fungus. For example, if you swim often. The moisture removes the protective layer of ear wax and softens underlying skin.
These are the most common symptoms of otitis externa:
The symptoms of otitis externa may look like other medical conditions or problems. Always check with your health care provider for a diagnosis.
Otitis externa may be diagnosed with a medical history and physical exam. Your provider may use an otoscope. This is a lighted instrument that helps to view inside the ear. This will help your provider see if you also have a middle ear infection (otitis media).
Your health care provider may also take a culture of the drainage from the ear. The results can help guide treatment.
With proper treatment, otitis externa often clears up within 7 to 10 days. Your health care provider will figure out the best treatment based on:
Treatment may include
The following are some hints to help prevent this condition:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
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