Malignant otitis externa

Malignant otitis externa is an uncommon complication of swimmer’s ear. It develops if an outer ear infection affects the adjacent tissue and bone. The usual bacterial strain responsible for the condition is pseudomonas aeruginosa.

What are the signs?

The indications of malignant otitis externa tend to vary between each case depending on the circumstances and progression of the infection.

The usual symptoms that might arise include:

  • Significant ear pain that worsens at night time
    Malignant otitis externa

    The indications of malignant otitis externa tend to vary between each case depending on the circumstances and progression of the infection.

  • Hearing loss
  • Pain or discomfort when the site behind the ear is touched
  • Ear drainage that might include pus that might appear greenish or yellowish in color with foul smell
  • Sensation of fullness in the ear
  • Itchy ears
  • Fever (rare)
  • Facial weakness
  • Difficult swallowing
  • Headache
  • Loss of voice
  • Facial weakness

Management of malignant otitis externa

An extended course of antibiotics is needed since bone infections are difficult to cure. The doctor must wait until a culture of the ear drainage confirmed the strain of bacteria responsible for the infection. The culture will provide the doctor information on the type of antibiotic to use to ideally treat the infection.

At this period, monitoring is necessary along with antibiotics until the imaging tests do not reveal any inflammation. In severe cases, surgery might be suggested to get rid of the damaged bone.

Other measures that are used include:

  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy – this is oftentimes utilized along with antibiotic therapy to promote healing of the damaged tissues
  • If the individual has been diagnosed with diabetes, it is vital to strictly control the blood sugar since high blood sugar levels will allow the growth of bacteria.

Prevention

If there are signs of swimmer’s ear, it must be treated correctly as soon as possible. When cleaning the ears, avoid using cotton swabs or inserting any objects into the ear that can result to injury.

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