Otitis Externa (Swimmer’s Ear)

About Otitis Externa (Swimmer’s Ear)

Inflammation of the outer ear and ear canal is known as otitis externa, commonly called swimmer’s ear. The skin of the ear canal may be painful to the touch, red and swollen, and may develop eczema. Otitis externa symptoms commonly include ear pain. Some patients may experience itching of the external ear or discharge from the ear.

Polluted or unclean water entering the ear and getting trapped during swimming or bathing is a common way to contract the disorder. Injury to the delicate skin of the ear from causes like the use of cotton swabs or fingernails can allow bacteria to enter the skin and cause swimmer’s ear as well.

Diagnosis of otitis externa involves a physical examination of the ear, including otoscopy.

Otitis externa treatment involves the management of pain, removal of any debris from the ear canal, and the administration of topical medications to address the infection and eczema. Mild cases of swimmer’s ear can be treated with over-the-counter medications, such as acetic acid drops or antibacterial drops.

Acute or chronic otitis externa should be examined by an ear, nose and throat specialist. Antibiotics to treat the infection or pain management medications may be prescribed. A fungal infection of the ear may be suspected if the otitis externa does to respond to usual treatment protocols.

Surgical procedures are usually not needed for swimmer’s ear. For more information about otitis externa, please see one of the ENT specialists with the National Sinus Institute.