Ear infection – outer ear – acute; Otitis externa – acute; Chronic swimmer’s ear; Otitis externa – chronic; Ear infection – outer ear – chronic
Definition of Swimmer’s ear
Swimmer’s ear is inflammation, irritation, or infection of the outer ear and ear canal. The medical term for swimmer’s ear is otitis externa.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Swimmer’s ear is fairly common, especially among teenagers and young adults. It is occasionally associated with (otitis media) or upper respiratory infections such as .
Signs and tests
The doctor will perform a physical exam, which includes looking inside the ears. The ear, including the ear canal, appears red and swollen. The skin inside the ear canal may be scaly or shedding.
Ear drops containing antibiotics are typically given, usually for 10 to 14 days. If the ear canal is very swollen, a wick may be applied in the ear to allow the drops to travel to the end of the canal. Your doctor or nurse can show you how to do this.
When treated properly, swimmer’s ear usually gets better.
Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/3/2010