Otitis externa

Otitis externa is an inflammation or infection of the ear canal (the passage leading from the external ear to the eardrum) that may develop when water, sand, dirt, or other debris gets into the ear canal.

Symptoms of otitis externa (also called swimmer's ear) are pain in and discharge from the ear.

Other causes of inflammation or infection of the ear canal include:

  • Scratching the ear canal with a cotton swab or a sharp object.
  • Chronic skin conditions, such as eczema or dermatitis.
  • Excessive cleaning of the ear canal.
  • Bubble baths and shampoos.

Treatment for otitis externa may include nonprescription pain relievers, antibiotics (if a bacterial cause was identified), or steroid eardrops.

Last Updated: August 18, 2008

Author: Monica Rhodes

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology

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