What causes swimmer's ear? Otitis externa, also called swimmer's ear, is an inflammation, irritation, or infection of the external ear canal. The ear canal is the outer ear between the opening of the ear and the eardrum. When water remains trapped in the ear canal, bacteria or fungi can grow. Otitis externa is a painful condition that commonly affects swimmers. This is known as "swimmer's ear."
Many different factors can increase your chance of developing swimmer's ear. Besides trapped water, other possible causes of this infection include:
The following are the most common symptoms of swimmer's ear:
The symptoms of swimmer's ear may look like other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.
Swimmer's ear may be diagnosed with a complete medical history and physical exam. Your health care provider may use an otoscope, a lighted instrument that helps to examine the ear and to aid in the diagnosis of ear disorders. This will help your provider know if there is also an infection in the middle ear. Although this infection usually does not occur with swimmer's ear, some people may have both types of infections.
Your health care provider may also take a culture of the drainage from the ear to help determine proper treatment.
Swimmer's ear, when properly treated by a health care provider, usually clears up within 7 to 10 days.
Treatment may include
Your health care provider will give you instructions on how eardrops should be applied. It is important to follow the instructions so that the proper dose of eardrops is delivered.
The following are some hints to help prevent swimmer's ear: