An ear infection is a common condition that can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as pain,pressure in the ear, and difficulty hearing. Sometimes, ear infections clear up on their own, but treatment may be necessary to reduce painful symptoms or for recurrent ear infections, which can result in long-term complications if not treated correctly. Keep reading to find out more about ear infection treatment and where you can go in Georgetown, TX, for expert treatment.
Types of Ear Infections
An ear infection is often the result of an infection of the middle ear, or the area behind the eardrum. Inflammation of the inner ear is called otitis media. In children, middle ear infections are usually caused by a cold, sore throat, or respiratory infection in the lungs and throat, which then spreads to the middle ear via the eustachian tube. Ear infections are less common in adults and are usually caused by a malfunction of the eustachian tube, which can result in chronic or recurrent ear infections.
Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is another type of ear infection that affects the outer ear canal, which runs from the outside of the head to the eardrum. Swimmer’s ear is typically brought on by water remaining the ear, such as after swimming, which creates a moist environment in which bacteria thrive.
What Causes a Middle Ear Infection?
The eustachian tubes are a pair of narrow canals that run from the middle ear to the back of the throat, behind the nasal passages. They are designed to help drain fluid from the ears, balance pressure in the middle ear, and to protect the ear from nasal drainage.
If there is a malformation of the eustachian tube or if there is swelling and congestion present, such as from a respiratory infection, virus, or allergy, it can prevent normal drainage of fluid from the middle ear. This leads to a buildup of fluid behind the eardrum which can allow for the growth of bacteria and viruses in the ear,resulting in an ear infection.
Adenoids, which are the two small areas of tissue located near the opening of the eustachian tubes, may block the tubes if they become swollen, such as through a virus. This could also lead to an ear infection.
Ear infections are more common in young children because they have weaker immune systems than adults and because their eustachian tubes are shorter more horizontal which makes it harder for water to drain out.
Symptoms of an Ear Infection
Symptoms of an ear infection can vary depending on the location and the severity of the infection. The primary symptoms of a middle ear infection include:
- Ear pain
- Pressure inside the ear
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Difficulty hearing
- Trouble sleeping
- Fever (more so in infants and younger children)
- Loss of balance
In young infants and children, symptoms can also include irritability, restlessness, rubbing and pulling at one or both ears, and loss of appetite.
Swimmer’s ear typically causes mild symptoms initially, such as itching and redness in the ear canal, mild discomfort, and a clear odorless discharge from the ear. If the condition progresses it can lead to more intense itching, pain, and redness, hearing problems, excessive fluid drainage, and fever. Swimmer’s ear requires prompt medical treatment to prevent the condition from becoming worse and to avoid complications.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Ear Infections
To diagnose an ear infection, your doctor will assess medical history and symptoms, and examine the ear with an otoscope. An otoscope is an instrument with a small light that is used to check for any redness, inflammation, or fluid buildup within the ear.
In many cases, minor middle ear infections clear by themselves within a few days to a week.Over the counter pain medication can help to reduce symptoms such as pain or fever. If symptoms are severe or do not improve within a few days, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection.
Treatment for swimmer’s ear will depend on the cause, but it can often be treated effectively with prescription ear drops to clear the infection and by cleaning and draining the outer ear canal. Depending on the severity of the infection, pain medication may also be recommended. The condition usually isn’t serious if treated promptly, but if left untreated, it can lead to more widespread or chronic infection and other complications.
Treatment for Chronic Ear Infections
Recurrent ear infections can lead to a ruptured eardrum and other complications, which if left untreated can lead to long-term, permanent damage to the ear and hearing loss.
If fluid remains in the ear for longer than 3 months or if you have frequent ear infections that reoccur even with antibiotic treatment, you may be a candidate for a myringotomy procedure, ear tube surgery, or balloon dilation. These procedures can alleviate pain and pressure associated with recurring middle ear infections and can help to prevent long term complications such as a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss.
Myringotomy and Ear Tube Surgery
Myringotomy is a minor surgical procedure that involves making a small incision in the eardrum to drain any trapped fluid and alleviate pressure from the middle ear. This procedure is used to treat moderate to severe middle ear infections.
Ear tube surgery, known as tympanostomy, may also be performed during myringotomy. Ear tube surgery involves surgically inserting a very small tube into the incision in the ear drum to relieve pressure and allow fluid to drain from the middle ear. The tube remains in place for around 6-12 months and then usually falls out on its own.
Ear tube surgery is a common procedure that is often recommended for treating chronic ear infections in children.It can also be used to help adults with long-term ear infections, fix eardrum and eustachian tubes that have been damaged, or fix air pressure injuries caused by changes in altitude or scuba diving.
Surgery to remove the adenoids (adenoidectomy) may be recommended at the same time as ear tube surgery, depending on the patient’s condition and their symptoms. This can help to reduce the need for repeat ear tube surgery in the future.
Balloon Dilation of Eustachian Tubes
Balloon dilation of the eustachian tubes, also called a balloon eustachian tuboplasty, is a minimally invasive procedure that involves inserting a balloon catheter through the nostril into the eustachian tube and inflating it to gently dilate the tube. This helps to relieve eardrum pressure and allows fluid to drain from the ear.The balloon is then deflated and taken out of the ear. Because no tissue is cut or damaged in this procedure, it is often the preferred choice for patients who experience recurring middle ear infections and are looking to avoid surgery.
Ear Infection Treatment in Georgetown, Texas
If you or your child are experiencing frequent ear infections, contact the experienced ENT specialists at Georgetown ENT. We offer a comprehensive range of adult and pediatric ear, nose, and throat healthcare services. We have provided effective treatments forpatients with acute and recurring ear infections, hearing loss, tinnitus, and hearing-related balance problems.
To learn more about our range of services or to book a consultation with one of our board-certified ENT physicians, call our office today at (512) 869-0604 or request an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you soon!