Ear Infections

Introduction

An ear infection is a medical condition commonly experienced by children during which fluid trapped in the ear causes varying degrees of discomfort. Although they are a frequent occurrence in youths, anyone of any age can develop an ear infection. If you are experiencing sharp ear pain, dizziness, or continuous ear drainage, you may have an ear infection.

What Is an Ear Infection?

Ear infections are viral or bacterial infections that affect the middle ear, which is located beneath the eardrum. Most patients who suffer from ear infections will experience pain due to inflammation of the middle ear. Ear infections are sorted into two types: chronic and acute. Acute ear infections are uncomfortable and often painful, but temporary. Chronic or reoccurring ear infections do not disappear and can result in damage to the inner ear.

The Causes of Ear Infections

Ear infections occur when bacterial or viral infections cause swelling in the Eustachian tubes that connect the middle ear to the throat cavity. Inflammation in this region prevents air from reaching the area behind the eardrum, and it fills with fluid, mucus, and other irritants. Because the Eustachian tubes are swollen, fluid in the middle ear gets trapped and can’t drain out naturally. The trapped fluid encourages viral and bacterial growth and causes infection. Colds, allergies, sinus infections, and influenza are common illnesses during which ear infections easily develop.

The Symptoms of Ear Infections

Pain and discomfort are the most common symptoms of ear infections. Patients who suffer from the condition may also feel pressure or a weight in the ear. Other symptoms include thick or pus-like drainage that lasts for a few days. Young children with ear infections may develop fevers or vomit. In severe cases, patients may experience acute earaches or even hearing loss. Excessive pressure in the middle ear can result in eardrum perforation (rupture). However, the ruptured eardrum will heal on its own once the infection has subsided. Patients with perforated eardrums may experience sudden decrease or increase in ear pain, hearing loss, or vertigo.

The Treatment of Ear Infections

Most ear infections can be treated with over-the-counter medication or will clear up without medical assistance. You can take non-prescription pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce inflammation of the middle ear. Nonprescription decongestants or ear drops can also alleviate the symptoms of an ear infection. If your symptoms persist or worsen, a doctor will most likely write you a prescription for antibiotics.

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