The different types of otitis
Definition : external otitis is an inflammation of the outer auditory canal, i.e. the visible part of the ear.
NB : External otitis does not only affect children but also adults
The causes of external otitis are mainly :
- Bacteria which penetrate the skin of the auditory canal via a scratch or an injury. This type of infection is often the consequence of using various objects intended to clean or scratch the ear.
- If the ear is damp for a long period, for example stagnant water after bathing.
- Eczema or psoriasis.
An external otitis generally involves severe itching and intense pain in the auditory canal and ear lobe. A slight flow of colourless liquid may sometimes be observed.
In the most serious cases, the ear may be red and the patient may suffer from fever and dizziness. In these different cases, you should consult a doctor immediately.
For this kind of otitis, it is important to consult a healthcare professional. He can prescribe/recommend :
- Ear drops,
- Analgesics to reduce the pain.
Definition : Otitis media is an inflammation of the middle ear. Acute otitis media is the most common childhood disease throughout the world (75 to 80% of children aged under 3 are concerned). It occurs suddenly and is very painful. NB : Otitis media does not only affect children but also adults.
The Eustachian tube is involved during the development of otitis media. Indeed, this type of otitis often occurs after the flu or a cold. The Eustachian tube links the middle ear and the throat and prevents bacteria or viruses from reaching the middle ear. In some cases, it may be blocked by bacteria and viruses and lead to an accumulation of pus which can cause a middle ear infection. Yjis infection usually concerns children because they have a shorter Eustachian tube. Thus bacteria and viruses migrate easily from the throat to the middle ear.
The accumulation of pus in the middle ear can cause a build-up of pressure on the eardrum which will generates the source of intense pain.
The major risk factors are :
- A family history of otitis media,
- Children community that lads to infection transmission,
- Parents who smoke,
- The use of pacifier.
Acute otitis media can be caused by :
- Bacteria in most cases (85%)
- Viruses for the remainder (15%)
A change of pressure during a flight or scuba diving can also trigger an otitis media known as barotrauma otitis.
An acute otitis media has generally one or more of these symptoms :
- Sever pain in the ear,
- A hearing loss and the feeling to have the ear blocked,
- A change of mood : irritable or inconsolable,
- Disturbed sleep,
- Vomiting or diarrhea,
- Deafness (Barotrauma otitis).
Acute otitis media inadequately treated can lead to serious complications such as the tympanic membrane perforation. This disease leads also to direct and indirect costs such as absenteeism from work for the parents. It is therefore essential to consult a doctor as soon as the infection begins.
For this kind of otitis, It is important to consult a healthcare professional. He can prescribe/recommand :
- Ear drops : anaesthetics and anti-inflammatory drugs,
- Oral analgesic to reduce the pain,
- Oral antibiotics in some cases (see below).
- In some case, the doctor can put a small tube through the eardrum to drain off the pus.
Important : The French and International official recommendations highlight limiting the prescription of oral antibiotics because they are rarely useful for treating acute otitis media in children more than 6 months. In practise, it is recommended to reduce the inflammation of the eardrum and to control the pain. Indeed, usually, children suffering from acute otitis media recover without oral antibiotic treatment after few days.
Therefore, reducing the consumption of antibiotics helps reduce costs, antibiotic resistance and side effects such as diarrhea.
When the reduction of pain is chosen at the first step, the evolution of the disease must be reassessed after 48h by your doctor. If the symptoms persist, an appropriate oral antibiotic can be prescribed.
Definition : Internal otitis involves inflammation of the inner ear. This is the rarest form of otitis and it can lead to irreversible damage surch as more or less severe loss of hearing.
NB : Internal otitis does not only affect children but also adults.
Internal otitis can be caused by :
- An acute otitis media inadequately treated
- Diseases (e.g. syphilis in adults)
- After ear surgery
Internal otitis is often linked to :
- Hearing loss
- A loss of balance
For this kind of otitis, it is important to consult a healthcare professional.