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Swimmer's Ear - Causes, Symptoms And Risk Factors

Dr. Rajeev Mishra 86% (92 ratings)
MBBS, MS - ENT
ENT Specialist, Delhi  •  24 years experience
Swimmer's Ear - Causes, Symptoms And Risk Factors

Swimmer's ear is a medical condition, which involves inflammation, irritation or infection of the ear. It may affect the outer ear and also the ear canal. Swimmer's ear is called Otitis externa in medical terms. The condition may be acute to chronic in nature.

Causes: Swimmer's ear is an infection that's usually caused by bacteria commonly found in water and soil. Infections caused by a fungus or a virus are less common. This condition is more common in teenagers and young adults. It may occur due to a middle ear infection or because of a respiratory infection such as cold.
Swimmer's ear can occur as a result of swimming in unclean or contaminated water. These waters contain pseudomonas and other harmful bacteria, which can lead to such ear infections. The infections are rarely caused by fungus.

Swimmer's ear may also result due to other reasons. They can be:

  1. Scratching the inside or outside of the ear.
  2. Having something stuck in the ear. When you clean ear wax with cotton swabs or small objects, damage may occur. Using headphone or ear plugs for a long period of time may also cause swimmer's ear.
  3. Allergic reaction to some object or anything placed in the ear may also cause Swimmer's ear. These may be hair products or jewelry.
  4. Some chronic skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis may also lead to this infection.

Risk factors:
There are several factors, which may enhance the risk of getting swimmer's ear. They are as follows:

  1. Swimming in water, which has got elevated levels of bacteria. This includes lakes and ponds.
  2. People having narrow ear canals are at a more risk of swimmer's ear.
  3. Aggressive cleaning and scratching of the ear canal.

Symptoms:
The symptoms which indicate swimmer's ear are:

  1. Itching of the ear canal. This becomes intense as the condition progresses.
  2. Redness on the inside parts of the ear, which get more extensive in later stages.
  3. Discomfort which worsens by pulling on the outer ear or pushing on the tragus of the front part of the ear.
  4. Drainage of a fluid which is clear and odorless. As the condition worsens, there is excessive drainage of fluid along with the discharge of pus.
  5. A fullness feeling in the ear and a partial blockage of the ear canal because of swelling and fluids.
  6. In advanced stages, fever and swelling of lymph nodes in the neck is indicated. Hearing impairment may occur.

Swimmer's ear is a health condition, which involves the ear. The ear gets inflamed because of a certain bacterial infection. Although it is not a very severe condition, in some cases it can do significant harm. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult an ent-specialist.

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