Swimmer’s Ear is a condition that often feels mild but which can lead to some pretty intense symptoms - and a lot of pain. If you’re experiencing problems with your ear then Swimmer’s Ear is worth looking into, as it’s a very common problem. You don’t necessarily need to have been near water recently to experience Swimmer’s Ear - and getting help with it quickly can stop it from escalating into anything worse.
What is Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s Ear is also known as Otitis Externa. It’s an infection in the outer ear canal. This is the part of the ear that goes from the eardrum to the outside of the head so it can be vulnerable to external influences. Often, Swimmer’s Ear is the result of water that has entered the ear and not left, hence the name. If that happens then the water in the ear creates a moist environment, which is a haven for certain bacteria to grow in. However, you don’t necessarily need water to create the right conditions for Swimmer’s Ear. It can also be caused by putting anything in the ear that shouldn’t be there, such as fingers or cotton swabs. This is because those items can damage the very thin layer of skin in the ear canal and result in an infection.
What are the signs of Swimmer’s Ear?
Itching and redness inside the ear can be some of the most common symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear. There may also be an uncomfortable feeling around the ear and some drainage of a clear fluid. These are all signs that the Swimmer’s Ear infection is currently mild. If you don’t get help for Swimmer’s Ear when the symptoms are mild then it can quickly progress:
- More serious Swimmer’s Ear symptoms include increasing pain, redness and itching, a feeling of fullness or blockage inside the ear, problems with your hearing and muffled sounds in the ear.
- If Swimmer’s Ear becomes advanced then it may feel like a severe pain that can radiate from your ear to other parts of your head, a fever and swelling up of the lymph nodes in your neck. The outer ear may be red and swollen and you may find that you can’t hear anything in the affected ear.
How can you treat Swimmer’s Ear?
If you’re able to get medical help then your ENT specialist will examine the ear canal to look for signs of Swimmer’s Ear, as well as to determine how advanced it is. If there is a blockage in the ear (e.g. wax) then this may need to be cleared so that any treatment can reach the affected area. Most treatments for Swimmer’s Ear will involve ear drops that could include steroids to reduce inflammation, an antibiotic to treat infection, antifungal medication if the infection has been triggered by a fungus and acidic solution to help restore the ear’s normal environment.
The signs of Swimmer’s Ear will usually get progressively worse so it’s vital to ensure that you seek help as soon as possible if you have them.