Swimmer's ear symptom

Infection around the ear is considered one the most annoying and displeasing pain and feeling that one can experience through life.

External ear infection, which is sometimes accompanied by such severe pain that even the patient cannot tolerate touching and examining the ear, is called "swimmer's ear". Residual water in the ear canal after swimming in the sea or pools, as well as after bathing, can lead to infection that medical term for this disease is “otitis externa”.

Any delay in treatment and proper medical managements, may lead to devastating conditions, like perforation of eardrum (tympanic membrane) or abscess formation (collection of pus inside body that has no way to come out).

 In the following, we will review the symptoms of swimmer’s ear as well as causes and ways to prevent this annoying problem.


Swimmer's ear symptom


Anatomy of the outer ear

What causes external ear infections?

How do you get an external ear infection?

Symptoms of swimmer ear disease

Avoid the swimmer's ears



Anatomy of the outer ear

The components of the outer ear are:

  • Auricle:

It is the outermost structure of the ear that collects sounds and then directs them into the ear canal.

  • Auditory duct:

A tube is similar to the letter S, which is responsible for delivering sound waves from the auricle to the eardrum.


What causes external ear infections?

In most cases, bacteria can cause swimmers' ear infections, but viruses and fungi can also cause otitis externa or otitis externa.

Some viruses like flu may cause external ear problems without direct damage. In fact, they irritate external ear with substances that they produce and brought by bloodstream into ear.

In other hand, there is chickenpox virus or zoster virus that directly damage nerves in our ear and cause swimmers’ ear infection.

Frequent manipulation with cotton swap or bathing with irritating soap may also cause inflammation and problems around ear. It is true that these conditions are not infectious at the beginnings, but they can be superimposed late by bacterial infections.


How do you get an external ear infection?

Normally, when the ear is healthy, the cells inside the outer canal produce a sticky substance called ear wax, which makes it difficult for bacteria and other infectious agents to survive.

Any factor that damages this defense barrier will expose a person to swimmers' ears, or outer ear infections.

One of the most common misbehaviour  that predisposes someone to catching external ear problems, is frequent bathing or swimming, that will wash away the ear wax, and make ear vulnerable to any kind of infections.


Bacteria and other infectious agents also enter the ear when the skin inside the canal is damaged, such as when using ear cleaners whose heads are covered with a piece of cotton, Scratching the ear with a pencil head and the bottom of a pencil and a pen, all of them cause damage to the ear wax and scratch the skin of the external ear canal, making us more susceptible to infection.

Occasionally, occlusion of ear canal may happen by water or thick wax and limits excretion of waste substances from ear canal.

This accumulation of waste and irritant materials inside ear canal, is another cause of getting external ear problems.


Symptoms of swimmer ear disease

Swimmer ear symptoms include:

  • The pain:

Ear pain is the most common symptom in a swimmer's ear, which can be mild or moderate or in some cases very severe. Sometimes the pain is so severe that the patient does not allow the doctor to examine the ear canal.

This pain can be so severe and devastating that cause nausea and vomiting.

Pain usually is mild at first and if left untreated will become sever.

Pain is constant and occasionally wax and wane through day time but get worse at night.

  • Change in the shape of the ears:

The inflammation is sometimes so great that the auricle moves away from the skull and tilts slightly forward.

Other symptoms of this condition include:

  • Severe itching of the ears:

Pus and inflammation that is produced by causative organism usually irritates the canal and make severe itching of ear.

  • Extensive redness in and around the eardrum:

Although the infection and inflammation site in the external ear and ear canal, but it may expand into inner ear and some times rupture of eardrum accompanies swimmers’ ear.

  • Swelling:

Swelling in the early phase of disease is formed by inflammation and it will regress with proper treatment.

If left untreated, swimmers’ ear can cause abscess and swelling will not go away without surgical drainage.

  • Yellow or green, foul-smelling purulent discharge:

As mentioned above, not all of swimmers’ ear caused by bacterial organism, but if left untreated, bacterial infection will superimposed.

  • Feeling of tightness and fullness in the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • There is severe pain in the auricle, face and sometimes the neck.

Sometimes even a gentle touch of a patient's auricle causes a lot of pain


Avoid the swimmer's ears


Swimmer's ear symptom


To prevent swimmer ear symptoms, you should prevent the outer ear canal from getting wet. For this purpose, observing the following points can be useful:

It is best to blow dry air into the outer ear canal with a hair dryer after bathing, showering and swimming.

The distance between the hair dryer and your ear should be such that it does not bother you nor irritate the skin.

You can use standard earplugs to prevent water from entering the ear. If ear protection is not available, you can dip a small piece of dense cotton in a little Vaseline and place it in the outer ear canal.

If the external ear canal is kept dry, the possibility of external otitis or swimmer's ear is very low.








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