Learn to Recognise the Symptoms of Ear Infections

Consisting of outer, middle and inner regions, the ear is commonly the focus of infections that give rise to a variety of symptoms and differing prognoses depending upon which of these areas may be affected and to what extent. Few people are more familiar with this type of condition than parents as, although adults are also susceptible to these maladies, they are far less so than the average child and these conditions are, almost invariably, the most common reason for children to need the attention of a doctor.

While the typical signs of such events can sometimes be quite painful and distressing to the sufferer, they are normally not of a serious nature. Left untreated, however, more serious complications may, on occasions, occur. These could include mastoiditis in which one of the nearby bones becomes inflamed, perforation of the tympanic membrane or eardrum with associated loss of hearing, facial paralysis due to nerve involvement and even meningitis.

Another, though somewhat rarer, consequence of failure to treat these conditions is Menière’s disease, that is characterised by intermittent tinnitus, vertigo and a sense of pressure that may also be accompanied by hearing loss. In severe cases, the vertigo attacks can persist for several hours and be accompanied by severe vomiting much like that seen in motion sickness.

Independent of their actual cause, the primary conditions are classified according to which of the three regions is affected…

Otitis Externa

In these infections, it one or both of the external ear canals that is affected. The symptoms are generally fairly mild and easily recognised   Redness often accompanied by localised itching and flaking of the skin is most common while pain and an effusion of pus may also be seen on occasions. It is a common condition among swimmers and results from bathing in contaminated water in which bacteria are present that can then thrive and multiply in the warm and moist conditions of the auditory canal. Seen in time, antibiotic drops are normally effective within a few days.

Otitis Media

Affecting the middle region of the auditory organs, this is a condition that commonly follows a bout of influenza or a common cold in which a the virus gains from the throat or nasal region via the Eustachian tubes and establishes itself in the region posterior to the tympanum where the tiny bones that transmit sound to the inner region are located. An accumulation of pus in the region will often result in pressure leading to quite intense pain sometimes as well as varying degrees of temporary deafness and vertigo.

Oral antibiotics are normally effective but, the condition is prone to recur in children due to the smaller and differing structure of the Eustachian tubes and surgical intervention in the form of grommets is often required until the child is older.

Otitis Interna

Also termed labyrinthitis, this a condition of the internal region that is characterised largely by attacks of severe vertigo, nausea and vomiting. Although it can occasionally arise from the spread of bacteria in the middle region, it is more commonly the result of viral activity.

Despite the severe symptoms of this type of ear infection, it is usually quite short-lived and rarely affects hearing although a mild imbalance can persist for several months.

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