What You Need to Know about Swimmer’s Ear
Typically, an ENT doctor focuses on disorders that settle around the ear, nose, and throat area. By extension, they can handle conditions relating to surrounding areas such as the neck and head. An ENT doctor can also be referred to as an otolaryngologist and treats disorders like ear infection, tonsil, stuttering, and tinnitus.
Children between two to five years can suffer from developmental stuttering that affects their speech. In such a case, the best-suited medical practitioner would be an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Another illness that is likely to result in a visit to the ENT doctor’s office would be the swimmer’s ear.
The swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is a disorder that occurs in the external ear canal, a section that starts from the eardrum to the surface of your head. Research carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that approximately 2.4 million people in the United States consult doctors annually due to the swimmer’s ear infection. This article highlights the causes, risks, and treatment options for swimmer’s ear.
Causes of Swimmer’s Ear
The infection is a result of bacteria accumulation and occurs typically in children who spend too much time in the water. ENT doctors agree that in dry areas, the ear can shield itself from an infectious disease.
However, when the ear is exposed to damp conditions, bacteria are likely to thrive and cause an infection. Though infections by fungus can happen in the year, studies indicate that close to 98% of swimmer’s ear occurrences in North America are as a result of bacteria. Excessive moisture in one’s ear can be irritating and cause the skin around the canal to break, which causes bacteria to penetrate.
An ear nose and throat doctor will tell you that swimmer’s ear can also be contracted through other ways apart from swimming. Dry skin, excessive use of cotton swabs in the ear, and adding foreign materials such as paper clips can increase your chances of otitis externa. Also, pus accumulated in the inner ear can get to the ear canal using a hole positioned within the eardrum and result in an infection.
Symptoms of the Infection
Ear, nose, and throat doctors categorize swimmer’s ear as mild, moderate, and advanced. In the early stages of the swimmer’s ear, the symptoms are mild and include itching of the ear canal, subtle redness in the ear, and discharge of an odorless fluid. If left untreated, the infection progresses, and the itching intensifies and well as increased pain.
One of the significant signs of this infection is a pain in the ear, which can get severe in case of pulling of pressing of the outer ear. The pain may also make it hard to chew, and occasionally, the pain starts after itching in the ear canal. Swelling could also cause the patient to experience partial blocking and discomfort in the ear.
The exterior part of the ear may appear reddish or swollen while the lymph nodes in the ear get larger and tender. In the advanced stages, ear, nose, and throat doctors caution that the pain is severe and might progress to the neck, face, or part of the head.
Treatment of Swimmer’s Ear
The treatment of the infection varies depending on the level of severity. An ENT doctor may recommend the use of ear drops, which can eliminate the disease. As one package, the ear drops containing can antibiotics can be put together with steroids to curb the swollen ear canal.
If the ENT doctor prescribes ear drops, they are for daily use for a period of 7 to 10 days. In cases where the ear canal is too swollen for the drops to penetrate, a doctor could put a wick, which will act as a passage for the drug into the ear.
You can always schedule a visit for regular ear, nose, and throat check-up. It is best to see an ENT doctor in the early phases before the infection progresses any further.