EspaƱol
ABOUT US | CONTACT | VOLUNTEER
MISSION & MINISTRY
Find a Physician
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+)

Ear anatomy
Ear anatomy


Medical findings based on ear anatomy
Medical findings based on ear anatomy


Definition:

Swimmer's ear is inflammation, irritation, or infection of the outer ear and ear canal. Chronic swimmer's ear occurs when the condition does not go away or comes back multiple times.

See also: Swimmer's ear - acute



Alternative Names:

Ear infection - outer ear - chronic; Otitis externa - chronic



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Swimmer's ear (otitis externa) is fairly common.

Swimming in polluted water is one way to get swimmer's ear. Moisture makes the ear more prone to infection from water-loving bacteria such as Pseudomonas. Other bacteria, or fungi (in rare cases) can also cause infection.

Other causes include:



Symptoms:

Signs and tests:

During the examination, the health care provider may find:

  • The ear and ear canal look red and swollen
  • The ear canal may have scaly shedding of skin
  • Touching or moving the outer ear increases the pain
  • It may be difficult for the health care provider to see the eardrum with an instrument called an otoscope
  • The eardrum may look red
  • The outermost part of the ear (the tragus) may be infected, and look red and swollen


Treatment:

The goal is to cure the infection, usually with ear drops containing antibiotics.

Other treatments include:

  • Corticosteroids to reduce itching and inflammation
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to help relieve pain
  • Vinegar (acetic acid) drops

If the ear canal is very swollen, a wick may be placed in the ear to allow the drops to travel to the end of the canal.

In elderly people or those who have diabetes and persistent ear pain or drainage, malignant otitis externa is a possibility. Malignant otitis externa is treated with high-dose antibiotics given through a vein (intravenous).



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

Chronic swimmer's ear usually responds to treatment. Treatment may be prolonged or repeated. If untreated, complications may develop.



Complications:
  • Infection of the surrounding skin
  • Malignant otitis externa, which can cause bone infection, hoarseness, and difficulty swallowing


Calling your health care provider:

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:

  • You have symptoms of chronic swimmer's ear
  • Acute swimmer's ear does not respond to treatment


Prevention:

Dry the ear thoroughly after swimming. People who swim often should consider wearing earplugs.

Swimmer's ear from any cause should be treated completely. Treatment should not be stopped sooner than the doctor recommends.




Review Date: 10/15/2008
Reviewed By: Daniel Levy, MD, PhD, Infectious Diseases, Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com


About Us



Emanuel Cancer Centers 2013 Annual Report
Joint Notice of Privacy Practices
Accreditation & Quality Measures
Board of Directors
CEO's Message
Community Crisis Information
Maps & Directions
Mission & Ministry
News & Publications
Volunteer

Care & Services



Emanuel Physician Finder

Employees & Physicians



e-MC Physician Portal
Web Mail
Employment Services
Physician Verification
Living in Turlock
Contact Us

Emanuel Medical Center
825 Delbon Avenue
Turlock, CA 95382
(209) 667-4200
Contact Us
© 2014 Emanuel Medical Center, Inc. All rights reserved
Home   |   Site Map   |   Joint Notice of Privacy Practices