We know ear drainage or discharge as one of the most common pediatric problems. Known as otorrhea in medical terms, it is often the result of an infection. Though we generally tend to attribute this condition to children and infants, it has been known to affect adults, too.
According to the National Institutes of Health, earwax is the most common fluid exiting the ear. It may be wet and sticky in some people, unlike the commonly produced dry and flaky earwax. So, some discharge of earwax is considered normal.
What is Ear Drainage?
Otorrhea is a condition when fluid starts to drain out of the ear canal. Generally, this fluid builds up behind the eardrum due to an infection. However, ear drainage may also refer to blood or pus draining out from the ear. Abrasion or some kind of an injury to the wall of the ear canal may be the reason of blood exiting the ear. It can have three different ways of identification based on causes and symptoms-
- Purulent otorrhea: acute and suppurative otitis media, malignant otitis, swimmer's ear.
- Non-purulent otorrhea: swimmer's ear, invasive otitis externa, CNS fluid leakage.
- Bloody otorrhea: trauma to the ear canal or the middle ear, or an infection by a foreign body.
There can be several causes of ear drainage, which can be determined by observing the color, consistency, and the smell of the fluid that is exiting the ear.
➜ The ear canal is a tube of about 2.5 centimeters that runs from the outer ear to the middle ear. The eardrums, also known as tympanic membranes, are thin and flexible, and aid in hearing. They also protect the ear from external objects which may cause harm, such as debris.
➜ However, sometimes, fluid may get trapped behind the eardrum when a person is suffering from a cold, the flu, a sinus infection, or even an allergy attack. This saturated fluid may contain infection-causing bacteria, which can cause the eardrum to rupture and lead to discharge of the smelly fluid. This may be chunky and thick, or sticky and thin, depending on the kind of infection.
➜ If the discharge is white or yellow in color, and is accompanied by a headache or fever, it requires immediate medical attention as it could be a serious condition.
➜ In some cases, trauma or injury may also be the cause of rupture of the ear membrane, causing ear drainage. The fluid that exits the ear in the absence of any infection is slightly bloody and clear. Ruptured membranes may also lead to sudden loss of hearing.
➜ Another cause of ear drainage in adults is the growth of tumors or cysts behind the eardrum, causing a reddish or yellow-colored fluid to exit the ear. It may be accompanied by pain, a foul odor, and even loss of hearing. Hence, it must receive medical attention immediately.
This was all about ear drainage in adults. So, if you find a foul-smelling liquid draining from your ear, get it treated immediately.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.