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Discharging ear: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

Definition
Any ear that has fluid or debris discharging from it.


Incidence/Age/Sex
It occurs commonly and can affect any sex or age.


Causes
Common causes include otitis externa( an eczema-like condition), perforated ear drums and middle ear infections.


Signs and Symptoms
The discharge could be thick or thin and any colour from white to green. There may be pain and irritation in the ear and hearing may be impaired. An offensive smell may emanate from the ear.


Complications of Disorder
If the cause of the discharge is not a simple infection in the ear canal, further treatment may be required to treat the underlying problem (see Causes).


Treatment


Medical
It is often very difficult to identify the cause of the problem on the first visit, due to the amount of debris and discharge in the ear. Suction of the ears may be required to allow closer inspection of the cause. Suction is undertaken using a small sucker under low pressure, like a vacuum cleaner, to remove any unwanted debris. This is an unusual sensation, but generally not an uncomfortable procedure, which is performed in the outpatient department of the hospital or GP surgery. Antibiotics Ear-drops may be given to try and cure the problem. Whilst the ears are discharging it advisable to prevent any water from entering the ears. The use of ear plugs whilst swimming or in the bath is sensible.


Surgical – refer to Operation
Refer to perforated ear drums and mastoid surgery.