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Ear infections: What are the usual causes in adults?

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There are 2 major forms of ear infections that develop in adults – acute middle ear infections and outer ear infections. Most cases of ear infections that affect adults are outer ear infections but cases that affect the middle ear can also occur.

Otitis externa in adults

The outer ear infections or swimmer’s ear typically affects swimmers. It occurs once contaminated water enters the outer ear which allows microorganisms to grow and thrive due to moist, warm conditions. The typical symptoms include the following:

  • Ear redness
  • Fever
  • Ear itchiness
    Ear infections
    Pain when moving the head or touching the ear
  • Pain when moving the head or touching the ear
  • Drainage of pus from the ear
  • Flaking of the skin on the ear

This condition is relatively easy to diagnose and treated with antibiotic ear drops. Oftentimes, debris and pus should be cleaned out by the doctor. These infections can be prevented by wearing ear plugs before a swim or bath, gradually drying the ears using a blow dryer at the lowest adjustment and avoid inserting objects into the ears. In addition, avoid swimming in polluted or contaminated water.

Middle ear infections in adults

Middle ear infections are common among children due to the anatomical difference in the size and shape of the Eustachian tube. Once bacteria or fluid become trapped within the ear, infection can develop.

Adults with frequent infections must consult a doctor since the adjacent tissues in the nose or throat might block the Eustachian tube and prevent proper drainage. Ear infections often occur after common cold, seasonal allergies or after flying on an airplane. The indication of middle ear infections includes the following:

  • Fever
  • Ear pain
  • Balance problems such as vertigo
  • Hearing loss
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear

Various factors can predispose the risk for infections. The factors that increases the likelihood of developing ear infections include allergies, craniofacial abnormalities, upper respiratory illnesses, enlarged structures in the throat or ear and immune system deficiency.

Other measures that can prevent future ear infections include avoiding cigarette smoke, avoid cleaning the ear using Q-tips or other objects and using a decongestant for common cold or before riding on an airplane. Even though it is unusual for adults to develop ear infections, they can be managed without any complications. A doctor should be come up with a suitable treatment based on the status of the individual.

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