Swimmer’s ear

Alternative Names

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.

Treatment

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.

Expectations (prognosis)

When treated properly, swimmer’s ear usually gets better.

Review

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

Ear anatomy
Medical findings based on ear anatomy
Swimmer

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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