Earache, Earache Symptoms, Causes of Earache, Earache Treatment,

Earache, Earache Symptoms, Causes of Earache, Earache Treatment,

Earache Symptoms

Thehealthtime.com

Earache Overview

Earache is very common medical problem for both children and adults. The 2 most common conditions that cause earache are infection of the outer ear (otitis externa) and infection of the middle ear (otitis media).

•Otitis externa
â—¦Skin infection of the outer ear or ear canal
â—¦Often occurs after swimming (commonly called swimmer’s ear)
•Otitis media
â—¦Infection of the middle ear and eardrum
â—¦Very common in infants and children aged 6 months to 2 years
â—¦Can also affect older children and adults

Earache Symptoms

•Otitis externa

â—¦Typically, there is an earache, which can be severe.

â—¦Mild cases may have more of an itch than pain.

â—¦Touching or pulling on the ear worsens the pain.

â—¦Hearing loss

â—¦Ringing or buzzing sounds in the ear

â—¦Blocked or full sensation in the ear

â—¦Swelling of the ear

â—¦Thick drainage from the ear

•Otitis media

â—¦Pain in the ear (most common symptom)

â—¦Hearing loss

â—¦Ringing or buzzing sounds in the ear

â—¦Full or plugged sensation in the ear

â—¦Fever

â—¦Occasionally, discharge from the ear (eardrum ruptures and the infected fluid drains out)

â—¦Other symptoms in infants

â– Vomiting or diarrhea

â– Irritability

â– Poor feeding

â– Poor sleeping

When to Seek Medical Care
Any severe earache that lasts more than a few hours, or even a mild earache that persists for more than a day should receive medical attention. An infection responds much better to treatment if therapy is started early, rather than waiting until it is severe.

•Other warning signs
â—¦Hearing loss
â—¦Fever
â—¦Generally feeling unwell or weak
Ear infections rarely need to be treated in the hospital. A doctor can safely handle most ear infections in an office setting.

•Exceptions that would require hospital treatment are as follows:
â—¦Illness in an infant under 3 months
◦Illness in an infant who is becoming lethargic or running a very high fever (104ºF or higher)
â—¦Severe headache, stiffness of the neck, or swelling in the neck may represent a complication of an ear infection and may require immediate attention.

Exams and Tests

A physician diagnoses otitis externa or otitis media after examining the ear with an instrument called an otoscope. In general, x-rays and other tests are unnecessary.

•Otoscopy
â—¦The otoscope has a bright light that shines through a speculum, which is inserted into the ear canal.
â—¦A lens on the other side magnifies the view of the ear.
â—¦In otitis externa, the ear canal will look swollen and inflamed. There may be a thick drainage visible.
â—¦In otitis media, the eardrum will look red and inflamed, and it will not move normally if the physician gives a puff of air through the instrument.
•Hearing test for otitis media
â—¦A hearing test sometimes is performed if the person has had many ear infections over time.
•Laboratory tests in otitis externa
â—¦Sometimes, a sample of drainage from the ear is sent to the laboratory in an attempt to identify the specific bacteria causing the infection.
â—¦Sending the sample to the laboratory is not needed in most cases and usually is reserved for infections that do not respond to normal treatment.

Earache Treatment

Self-Care at Home

Any severe earache requires medical attention. Only a doctor can make the proper diagnosis of otitis externa, otitis media, or other less common causes of earache including problems that are not infectious. These diseases have similar symptoms making self-diagnosis unwise and potentially dangerous.

Medical Treatment

•Otitis externa
â—¦Most cases are treated with eardrops for 7-10 days.
â—¦These drops contain antibiotic to fight the infection and, sometimes, a steroid to reduce swelling.
â—¦The drops are placed in the ear while the person is lying on his or her side, with the affected ear up.
â—¦The outer ear is gently pulled backwards, and the drops are placed over the opening to the ear canal.
â—¦The ear is gently wiggled for a minute to help the drops penetrate.
â—¦The person should remain in this position at least 5 minutes. Then a cotton ball can be placed over the ear to catch any spill.
â—¦Sometimes a wick is placed in the canal if swelling is severe.
â—¦Some severe cases will require an oral antibiotic as well as the eardrops.
â—¦The person may require strong pain medication for the first few days.
â—¦During treatment and for 1-2 weeks after treatment, water should be kept out of the ear.
â—¦Either an earplug or small cotton ball coated with Vaseline can be used during bathing.
â—¦In some cases the drainage in the ear builds up, and the infection won’t clear until it is removed. An otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist), using special equipment, usually will remove this build-up.
•Otitis media
â—¦Most cases are treated with an oral antibiotic for 10-14 days.
â—¦In some cases a decongestant medication is helpful.
â—¦Pain medication may be needed for the first few days.

Next Steps

Follow-up

People with earache caused by ear infection should have follow-up care with their doctors to insure that the infection has completely gone away.

•A follow-up appointment is scheduled 1-3 weeks after starting treatment, depending on the severity of the condition and other factors.
•Take all medications, as prescribed, and finish the prescription, as directed.
NOTE: Ear infections often will return if only partially treated. Do not stop the course of treatment even though symptoms are relieved.

Prevention
Preventive measures can be very useful to decrease the frequency of otitis externa. On the other hand, otitis media is difficult to prevent. Avoid the risk factors outlined under Causes, if possible.

•Otitis externa prevention-preventing moisture in the ear
â—¦Careful drying of the ear after swimming or bathing
â—¦Shaking out excess water
â—¦Holding a hair drier on low heat setting at least 12 inches from the ear
â—¦Wearing earplugs while swimming
â—¦Homemade solution of 1/2 rubbing alcohol, 1/4 white vinegar, and 1/4 distilled water may be used for tougher cases.
â– Place 3-4 drops in each ear after swimming or bathing.
â– Do not use drops if there is a hole (perforation) in the eardrum or if there is a ventilation tube in the ear.
â– Immediately discontinue drops if any pain occurs.
•Otitis externa prevention-preventing scrapes to ear canal
â—¦Careful cleaning of ears to avoid scraping the ear canal.
â—¦Do not use objects (for example, paper clips, bobby pins, or fingernails) that may tear the skin. Most people have ears that are self-cleansing, and cleaning with a cotton-tipped swab is unnecessary and potentially harmful.
•Otitis media prevention
â—¦Avoid risk factors (for example, secondhand smoke, daycare), if possible.
â—¦Treat severe allergies.
â—¦Avoid contact with others who have a cold or respiratory infection.
â—¦In severe cases, a prolonged course of an antibiotic can be used as a preventive measure.

Outlook

•Both of these earache conditions (otitis externa and otitis media) usually respond quickly to proper medical treatment. Pain relief should occur within the first few days of treatment.
•Other symptoms, such as hearing loss or ear fullness, may take longer to improve.
•An otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) should evaluate people with continuing infection, or those who get frequent, recurring infections.

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