Otitis media is an inflammation of the middle ear caused due to allergy, nutritional deficiency, infection, and other underlying health conditions. The treatment approaches include administration of analgesic eardrops, antibiotics, and surgical procedures.
Otitis media results from the inflammation in the middle portion of the ear caused by the bacterial or viral infections. It is more common among children in comparison to adults. In fact, about 75% of children under 3 years suffer from this condition. The reasons for susceptibility of children to otitis media are smaller size of the ear and horizontal positioning of the eustachian tube, a structure that connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx. The condition is most common during the winter season.
Causes and Symptoms
In majority of the cases, otitis media is developed due to spread of pathogens that are responsible for causing a cold, sore throat, and other breathing problems. Other causes are food and airborne allergies, nutritional deficiency, and blockage of the eustachian tube due to other health conditions like swollen tonsils. Some of the risk factors are an exposure to passive smoking, respiratory disorders, and close contact with people having ear infections.
The problem can be acute or chronic, depending upon the symptoms. An acute condition is characterized by the rapid onset of the symptoms that last for a short duration. Some of the noticeable signs are earache, bulging eardrum, perforated eardrum, fluid accumulation in the middle ear, and drainage of pus from the ear. A chronic condition usually lasts for a few months. The symptoms include fever, drainage of fluid from the ear (effusion), tinnitus, and ear pressure (popping). If the symptoms return frequently, then it is referred to as recurrent otitis media.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The condition is difficult to detect in infants and young children, as they cannot communicate about the issue properly. If a child shows irritability, difficulty in sleeping, ear pulling, then he/she should be examined by a pediatrician as soon as possible. It is diagnosed by examining the ear with the help of an otoscope. The health care specialist may screen the eardrum responses by giving gentle pressure to the ear. For confirmation of this ear problem, other diagnostic laboratory tests include an audiogram and tympanogram.
The treatment approaches for this condition may differ from patient to patient, taking into consideration the possible causes, patient’s age, immunization status, and severity of the condition. Children with mild otitis media are treated with the administration of analgesic eardrops and over-the-counter pain relievers. In case of severe inflammation and a recurrent problem, the physician may prescribe daily antibiotics.
If the symptoms persist even after administering medications, the physician may consider culturing of the fluid extracted from the ear. Based on the result, further treatment including a surgical procedure may be conducted to cure this condition. The most popular surgical procedure is myringotomy, in which a small ventilation tube or tympanostomy tube is used to drain the fluid accumulated in the middle ear. If chronic otitis media is resulted from the inflammation of adenoids, then the physician may consider removal of adenoids by adenoidectomy.
If left untreated, it can lead to other complications of the eardrum and middle ear. One of the major complications is hearing loss due to prolonged retention of fluids in the middle ear. At times, it can cause cholesteatoma (accumulation of skin debris) and permanent damage to the bones of the middle ear.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.