If you have severe pain in your ear or there is drainage of fluid from your ear, you may have an ear infection. An ear infection, sometimes called acute otitis media, is an infection of the middle ear, the part of the ear behind the eardrum that contains tiny vibrating bones. It is more likely to occur in children as compared to adults.
Children often complain of pain in their ears. There are two common conditions that may affect children’s ears; acute otitis media (AOM) and Otitis media with effusion (OME). AOM occurs when the area behind the eardrum gets infected, causing ear pain, fever, irritability, diarrhoea, sleeplessness, headache and neck pain. The condition leads to following behaviours at different stages of childhood: infants presents bouts of fussiness and intense crying; toddlers keep clutching the ear while wincing in pain; and older kids complain of a severe pain in the ear. AOM is usually treated with antibiotics, while its dosage varies by child’s age and severity of the condition. On the other hand, otitis media with effusion (OME) is characterised by collection of a thick or sticky non-infected fluid caused by cold, sore throat or upper respiratory infection.
Doctors have identified multiple factors that can put children at risk for OME, such as: allergies, respiratory infections, irritants, or drinking while lying on the back. In most cases, children with OME do not feel any symptoms or fall sick, but in some cases, they experience mild symptoms like hearing issues. The condition often clears up on its own, but if it persists then it will require doctor’s intervention for the draining of fluid from behind the ears.
When the Eustachian tubes become obstructed, fluid builds up in your middle ear that causes an ear infection. Eustachian tubes are small tubes that join the back of the throat to each ear.
The eustachian tube may be congested due to the following factors:
• Inflammation of the sinuses
• Excess mucous
• Diseased or enlarged adenoids (tissues near tonsils for trapping bacteria and viruses)
• Variations in air pressure
Ear infections affect children and adults differently and appear with a range of symptoms. Symptoms appear as soon as an infection develops, and may include:
• Ear pulling or tugging
• Earache, especially when lying down
• Loss of equilibrium
• Loss of appetite
• Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit
• Ear fluid drainage
• Hearing or responding to the sounds becoming a problem
• Crying more than usual
• Having difficulty in sleeping
• Severe pain in the ear
• Fluid drainage from the ear
• Having difficulty in hearing
Doctors diagnose an ear infection based on the symptoms. Typically, a light instrument (an otoscope) is used to look at the ear, nose, and nasal passage. The examination by otoscope may reveal:
• Redness, air bubbles, or pus-like fluid in the middle ear
• Fluid drainage
• The functioning of eardrum
• The health of an eardrum if or not it has collapse or has any bulges
If your infection is advanced, a doctor may have your computed tomography (CT) scan of your head to assess the spread of the disease. You might also be advised on a hearing test, if you have a chronic ear infection.
Generally, pain management and monitoring is the first step to treat an ear infection. Most of the times, the less intense cases of ear infections settle on their own. However, the persistent or intense condition requires antibiotics for relief. In certain people, multiple ear infections are common, which can lead to hearing loss as well as other serious complications, if they aren’t treated adequately. With the presence of symptoms listed here, it’s advisable to consult an ENT Specialist who will help determine a treatment plan for the pain relief and prevention of any possible complications.
At American Hospital Dubai, our ENT Specialists can help you manage common and complex ear diseases (including pain and infection). Schedule an appointment with our experienced ENT Consultant by using our secure web form, if you seek an expert medical advice for your ear pain or infection.