Acute Otitis Externa

What is Acute Otitis Externa?

Acute Otitis Externa, also referred to as 'Swimmer's Ear', is an infection of the outer ear canal. It is usually preceded by a bacterial or fungal infection which gains access to the ear canal through damaged skin. Swimmer's ear is more common in the warmer months, when many people are swimming. It often causes discomfort or pain, but can easily be treated with antibiotics.

Signs and Symptoms of Acute Otitis Externa

Patients with acute otitis externa may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Itching or pain in the ear.
  • Redness or swelling in the ear canal.
  • Fluid or pus draining from the ear.
  • Partial hearing loss or muffled sounds.
  • Unpleasant odor coming from the ear.

Diagnosis of Acute Otitis Externa

If you experience any of the above symptoms, contact your health care provider. The provider may perform an ear examination to look for signs of infection. A cotton swab with the patient's ear wax may be taken for laboratory testing to identify the type of infection.

Treatment of Acute Otitis Externa

Treatment of acute otitis externa typically involves a combination of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medicines, and ear drops. The type of treatment necessary is determined by the type of infection and severity. If the infection is mild, topical steroid drops may be prescribed. In more severe cases, a course of oral antibiotics may be prescribed. Ear drops are often used to help reduce pain and swelling and to prevent further complications. It is important to finish the entire course of antibiotics, even if the symptoms seem to have improved.