Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the ear canal, and this condition is otherwise known as otitis externa. Here is a brief overview about the treatment for this condition.
The human ear consists of an outer ear, middle ear, and an inner ear. The outer ear consists of the visible part of the ear, i.e. the ear lobe, and the ear canal that leads to the eardrum. It is the eardrum that separates the outer ear from the inner ear. Normally, the ear canal in a human ear is around 2.5 centimeters in length and up to 8 millimeters in width. Apart from carrying the sound waves to the eardrum, the ear canal protects the inner structures through different ways.
The inner surface of the ear canal has numerous tiny hair, that work as barriers for minute particles that enter the ear. The skin that lines the ear canal secretes earwax, which also acts as a barrier for those particles that find entry into the ear. Apart from that, the ear canal has an acidic environment that inhibits survival of microorganisms entering the ear canal.
However, all these protective features work efficiently, only when the ear canal is dry. Any kind of excess moisture in the ear canal may lead to ear infections. One such infection is the swimmer’s ear or otitis externa. As the name rightly suggests, this condition is most commonly seen in swimmers and divers, especially those who are more exposed to water.
This condition has to be treated at the very onset itself, so as to prevent further complications. Mild cases of swimmer’s ear heal on their own, as the ear canal gets dry. However, others need treatment for relief from the symptoms. Usually, antibiotics are used for treating this condition. Both oral antibiotics and antibiotic ear drops are prescribed.
Ear drops can be a combination of antibiotics, antifungal medication, acidic solutions (for restoring the acidic balance of the ear canal), and steroids to reduce the swelling caused by infection. If the condition is severe with increased drainage and blockage of the ear canal, a suction device is used to remove the debris in the ear canal. This is done, so that the medication reaches the inner surface of the ear canal, which would otherwise be covered with the debris. Sometimes, the doctor may insert a wick into the blocked ear, so that the medicine reaches the area of infection. Home remedies for swimmer’s ear includes apple cider vinegar and hot compresses.
Causes and Symptoms
Swimmer’s ear is caused by excess moisture in the ear canal. This moist atmosphere in the ear canal leads to growth of microorganisms, that cause infection. It cannot be said that only swimmers are affected by this condition. Any person can contract the condition, if water enters the ear canal, and generates an atmosphere that is favorable for microorganisms. Usually, bacteria is found to be the causal agent for swimmer’s ear, but fungi and viruses may also cause this condition.
While the initial stages are characterized by mild symptoms, the infection may worsen, if left untreated, thereby leading to severe symptoms. The initial symptoms include itching and redness of the ear canal. Some people may experience fluid drainage too. As the condition worsens, the affected person may experience an increase in drainage (along with pus), severe pain, fever, and hearing problems. The lymph nodes in the nearby areas may get swollen, and the skin of the outer ear may become red and flaky.
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, consult a health care provider, and get the condition diagnosed and treated at the earliest.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.