Ear infection – chronic

Alternative Names

Middle ear infection – chronic; Otitis media – chronic; Chronic otitis media; Chronic ear infection

Definition of Ear infection – chronic

Chronic ear infection is inflammation or infection of the middle ear that persists or keeps coming back, and causes long-term or permanent damage to the ear.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

For each ear, a eustachian tube runs from the middle ear to the back of the throat. This tube drains fluid that is normally made in the middle ear. If the eustachian tube becomes blocked, fluid can build up. When this happens, germs such as bacteria and viruses can multiply and cause an infection. This is called an (acute otitis media).

Symptoms

A chronic, long-term infection in the ear may have less severe symptoms than an acute infection. It may go unnoticed and untreated for a long time.

Signs and tests

An examination of the ear may show:

Treatment

The health care provider may prescribe antibiotics if the infection may be due to bacteria. You may need to take antibiotics for a long time, either by mouth or sometimes into a vein (intravenously).

Expectations (prognosis)

Chronic ear infections usually respond to treatment. However, your child may need to keep taking medicines for several months.

Review

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 4/26/2010

Ear anatomy
Middle ear infection (otitis media)
Middle ear infection
Ear tube insertion  - series

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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