Patient's Complete Guide to Ear Infection
Overview of Ear Infection
Ear infections, also known as (کان کے انفیکشن or Kaan ki bemari), are painful and caused by bacterial or viral infection. These infections attack the middle ear (lies behind the eardrum). The middle ear is connected with the respiratory tract through small tubes named Eustachian tubes. When the bacteria infect the nose or sinus, it also transfers infection to the ear through these Eustachian tubes. From there, the bacteria enter the middle ear and start growing. Therefore, common cold, flu, or other types of respiratory tract infections are associated with the signs of ear infection.
These infections are painful and cause inflammation as well as accumulation of the fluid in the middle ear. People of all age groups such as babies, children, adults, or older people can suffer from ear infections.
Signs and Symptoms of Ear Infection
Based on the type of ear infection the symptoms are divided into the following categories:
Symptoms of Inner Ear Infections Include:
- Spinning sensation
- Balance problem
- Hearing loss
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Walking problem
Symptoms of Middle Ear Infections are:
- Trouble hearing
- Inflammation of eardrum
- Fluid or pus builds up behind the eardrum, which can make hearing more difficult.
- Fever and tiredness
Other common symptoms of Outer Ear Infections are:
- Painful ear canal
- Swollen ear
- Feeling tenderness
- Redness on skin
- Warm skin when infections act on the outer ear.
Common Symptoms of Ear infections
Certain common symptoms of ear infections include:
- Mild pain in the ear
- Ear discomfort
- A feeling of pressure inside the ear
- Clumsiness in young infants
- Pus-like ear discharge
- Loss of hearing
Immediately consult the nearest doctor if the babies under 6 months of age suffer from fever or an ear infection, as it may be life-threatening for them.
Types of Ear Infection
The types of ear infections are divided on the basis of their severity or infected area of the ear.
Types of Ear Infection Based on Its Location
The ear is divided into three layers, inner, middle, and outer layers. Bacteria or viruses affect these parts of the ear to cause infections.
Inner Ear Infections
The inner ear is the innermost part of the ear and lies between the outer and inner ear. The inner ear is responsible for balance and hearing and it becomes inflamed or irritated due to the virus. Inner ear infections are also called labyrinthitis.
Middle Ear Infections
The middle ear is located behind the eardrum. It gets affected when bacteria or viruses attack the eardrum from the mouth, eyes, and nasal passages. These microbes get trapped over there and cause pain and plugged ears.
Outer Ear Infections
The outer ear starts from the outside ear canal of the eardrum to the outer opening of the ear.
In this type, outer ear infections occur due to irritation or external ear canal injury from objects such as cotton swabs or fingernails, etc. The microbes spread to the warm dark ear canal and cause outer ear infections.
The first symptom that a person feels is an itchy rash on the outer side of the ear.
Types of Ear Infections Based on Its Severity
It is categorized into two major forms that include:
Acute Ear Infections
It causes pain in the middle ear but the pain is of shorter duration.
Chronic Ear Infections
In this type, bacteria or viruses are not eliminated from the ear and may recur many times. Along with it, chronic ear infections can damage the middle and inner ear permanently. It has a prolonged duration of action.
Causes of Ear Infection
Eustachian tubes are tiny tubes that connect the ear to the back of the throat. When one of the eustachian tubes gets swollen, blocked, resulting in the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear to cause ear infections.
Other causes of blockage of the Eustachian tube involves:
- Sinus infections
- Excess mucus
- Infected or swollen adenoids (tissue near your tonsils that traps harmful bacteria and viruses)
- Changes in air pressure
Risk Factors of Ear Infection
Children are more likely to suffer from ear infections because they have short, contracted Eustachian tubes. Bottle-fed infants are more prone to ear infections as well as compared to breast-feeding infants.
Some other options that may increase the risk of ear infection are:
- Altitude changes
- Environmental changes
- More exposure to cigarette or tobacco smoking
Here are some factors that can put you at high risk of developing ear infections:
- Seasonal Factors
- Cleft Palate
- Poor Air Quality
- Group Child Care
- Infant Feeding
- Alaska Native Heritage
Health Complications of Ear Infections
Ear infections cause redness or swelling on the bone behind the ear. You need to get medical help, or it can lead to the following complications:
Brain abscess, loss of hearing, and meningitis are serious complications that can result.
Interestingly, you can prevent ear infections. Here are some simple and unique measures for the prevention of ear infections:
- Quit smoking to prevent upper respiratory infections that automatically cause ear infections.
- Protect the outer ear from water by using earplugs in the ear or towels for drying the ears immediately after swimming, bathing etc.
- An individual should not use cotton swabs and other external objects for ear cleaning because these may damage the ear canal or eardrum, resulting in an ear infection.
- The hands must be washed on a daily basis. It is good to avoid and reduce microbial load which eventually may cause ear infections.
- People who are sensitive to allergies should keep the ear covered to prevent the inflammation and mucus buildup that can contribute to an infection.
An ENT specialist will examine the ear with a lighted and magnified lens instrument named an otoscope. If a person suffers from an ear infection, the examination of it may show:
- Redness in ear
- Air bubbles, or pus-like fluid inside the middle ear
- Fluid discharge from the middle ear
- Eardrum perforation
- A bulging or collapsed eardrum
If the infection is worsened then an ENT specialist will take a sample of the fluid from the ear and identify the type of bacteria whether it is resistant to antibiotics or not.
There are also some tests that an ENT specialist may recommend for a proper diagnosis. These tests are:
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: It is conducted for the head examination to check the infection has spread beyond the middle ear.
- Hearing Test: In this test, two twisted prongs are used to check the hearing sense.
Along with it, An ENT specialist will check the patient's medical history and ask some questions about the symptoms and the medications that a patient is already using.
Treatment of Ear Infection | When to Consult a Doctor
An ENT specialist will treat the ear infections whether it is a middle ear infection, outer ear infection, or inner ear infection according to its cause and symptoms. In some cases, the infection can be managed with home remedies while in others, proper treatment is needed.
It all depends on the severity of infections.
Home Remedies for Ear Infection
Home-made Ear Drops: An individual can make the ear drops at home by mixing half of rubbing alcohol and half white vinegar. Adding a few drops in the ear can help to dry out the ear canal and support the healing process.
These drops are not suitable for those people who have permanent injuries of the ear, any yellowish discharge of fluid or blood from the ear (it is a sign of some major complications such as eardrum rupture), or had a history of ear surgeries.
- Warm Compression: A warm compression on the ear will help to relieve the pressure in the ear. This compression is carried out for about 20minutes. This method is beneficial for reducing pain. An individual can use this method with other pain management treatments like over-the-counter medications.
Antibiotics are primarily used for the treatment of bacterial ear infections. As per the CDC report, oral antibiotics are not suitable for middle and outer ear infections. These are not effective for viral ear infections.
Some ear drops that a doctor prescribes to the patients help to treat some ear infections and pain symptoms.
Some over the counter medications are used for relieving pain and discomfort during ear infections in adults.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Ibuprofen (Advil)
Decongestants or Antihistamines- It helps to relieve excess mucus from the Eustachian tubes such as:
- Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
(Important Note: Do not take any medications without doctor’s consultation)