Otitis externa is a term that refers to inflammation of the external ear (the ear canal). Inflammation of the ear canal is typically accompanied by pain, itch, ear discharge and temporary dulled hearing.
In many patients otitis externa resolves with proper treatment within a week. However, if it lingers or frequently repeats acute otitis externa may progress into chronic form of the disease. Such inflammation may last longer than three months.Clinical Characterisitcs of Chronic Otitis Externa
Symptoms and signs of chronic otitis externa are actually quite similar to symptoms and signs of acute inflammation. Patients report persistent itch inside and around the ear canal. They may additionally complain about discomfort or pain in one ear and suffer from ear discharge. There are also hearing difficulties usually associated with thick and dry skin build-up inside the ear canal.
Chronic Otitis Externa Causes
Water, shampoo and other hair products may irritate the ear canal and cause its inflammation. One may scratch the itchy area and cause even more intensive inflammation or even induce infection. Even if some treatment has started, by continuous poking or scratching the ear one may initiate a vicious circle and chronic inflammation.
Otitis externa caused by bacteria may be unresponsive to certain antibiotics. This is why if acute infection does not subside with one antibiotic, doctor is due to take a swab and after identifying the infective agent and determining its sensitivity choose the most convenient and effective antibiotic. Similar action is supposed to be performed in case of fungal infection.
Chronic otitis externa is also associated with some skin conditions. For instance, prolonged or repeated inflammation may affect individuals suffering from eczema and psoriasis.
Some people are predisposed to otitis externa. The condition is, for instance, more frequent among individuals with small ear canals. Otitis externa is frequently distributed between genders.Treatment and Prevention
Treatment for chronic otitis externa depends on the underlying cause. The goal is to eradicate invective agents or bring the underlying condition under control. Patients are prescribed different medications which are administered in a form of ear drops or ointments. By previous removal of debris, the drug can come in direct contact with the affected area and be more efficient.
Patients can accelerate healing if they do not scratch the affected ear and abstain from use of cotton buds and swabs. Until the inflammation is completely cured one should not swim and is supposed to avoid entrance of water and different hair products into the affected ear.