What is an Otitis Media (Ear Infection)?

Otitis media is a middle ear infection or inflammation. A cold, sore throat or respiratory disease can lead to otitis media. This infection causes inflammation and fluid accumulation in the ear's interior spaces. The middle ear is a hollow area behind the eardrum filled with air, and it has vibrating bones that convert external sound into meaningful impulses for the brain.

Ear infections are unpleasant because the inflammation and fluid accumulation pressure the eardrum. Acute or chronic ear infections can occur, and persistent ear infections can permanently harm the middle ear.



When To See a Doctor?

A variety of factors can trigger an ear infection, and it is essential to have an accurate diagnosis and early treatment. The symptoms involve:

  • The symptoms last longer than a day.
  • A child under six months.
  • The earache is excruciating
  • After a cold or other upper respiratory infection, the infant or toddler is sleepless or cranky.
  • You detect an ear discharge of fluid, pus, or bloody fluid.

Causes

Middle ear infections are generally caused by a malfunction of the eustachian tube, a canal that connects the middle ear to the throat. The eustachian tube helps balance pressure between the outer and middle ear. When this tube fails, it restricts fluid drainage from the middle ear, accumulating liquid behind the eardrum. When this fluid cannot drain, germs and viruses can increase in the ear, leading to acute otitis media.

Some of the causes why the eustachian tube may not function properly are

  • A cold or allergy can cause swelling and congestion of the nose, throat, and eustachian tube lining. This swelling prevents regular fluid outflow from the ear.
  • A eustachian tube malformation

Risk factors

Risk factors for ear infections include:

  • Age : Children between the ages of 6 months and two years are more vulnerable to ear infections due to the size and structure of their eustachian tubes and their immune systems are still developing.
  • Infant feeding : Newborns who drink from a bottle, especially when lying down, have more ear infections than breastfed babies.
  • Seasonal factors : Fall and winter are the most common ear infections. When pollen levels are high, those with seasonal allergies may be more susceptible to ear infections.
  • Poor air quality : Tobacco smoke and excessive levels of air pollution can both raise the risk of ear infections.
  • Cleft palate : Cleft palate : Differences in bone structure and muscle strength in children with cleft palates may make eustachian tube drainage more difficult.

Complications

Otitis media complications are rare. Among these complications are the following:

  • Infection that develops to the ear bones (mastoiditis),
  • Infection that spreads to the brain and spinal cord fluid (meningitis),
  • Permanent deafness,
  • Eardrum rupture

Prevention

Ear infections are common, especially in children, due to an undeveloped immune system and differences in the ear's anatomy. There is no specific way to avoid infection; however, the following suggestions can help:

  • Children who have gotten their vaccines are less likely to get ear infections. Talk to your doctor about meningitis, pneumococcal, and flu vaccinations.
  • Wash your hands and the hands of your children frequently. This helps to prevent bacteria from spreading to the child and can help them from getting colds and flu.
  • Do not expose yourself to secondhand smoke.
  • Wherever possible, breastfeed newborns, and this helps to boost their immunity.
  • Antibiotics should only be used when necessary. Ear infections are more common in children who have had an ear infection in the preceding three months, especially if antibiotics were used.

Diagnosis

Ear infection testing is a relatively simple process, and a diagnosis can often be decided based mostly on symptoms. The doctor usually uses an otoscope to check for fluid behind the eardrum. A doctor sometimes uses a mechanical otoscope to test for infection. This instrument looks for trapped fluid by blowing a puff of air into the ear. Any fluid behind the eardrum makes it move less than usual. If the doctor is uncertain, they may use other procedures to confirm a middle ear infection.

  • Tympanometry : is a procedure in which the doctor uses a device to seal off and adjust the pressure inside the ear canal. The equipment detects the eardrum's movement, allowing the doctor to assess the pressure in the middle ear.
  • Acoustic reflectometry : This technique involves reflecting sound off the eardrum. The quantity of sound that is reflected reveals the level of fluid accumulation. A healthy ear absorbs most sound, but an infected ear reflects more sound waves.
  • Tympanocentesis : A doctor may use tympanocentesis if an ear infection has not reacted well to treatment. A small hole is made in the eardrum, and some fluid is drained from the inner ear.This fluid can then be examined to find out what caused the illness.

Treatment

Otitis media can be treated in many ways. Antibiotics can be used to treat acute otitis media, but antibiotics are neither helpful nor necessary because OME is rarely associated with infection. A common treatment is an ibuprofen or another fever and pain reliever.

  • Medications and observation : Generally, doctors advise waiting a few days and seeing if the condition resolves on its own before administering antibiotics. They may offer medicines for the patient's discomfort and fever. For holes or rips in the eardrum caused by frequent or continuous infection, doctors may give ear drops and utilize a device to empty the fluids. Every 3 hours, adults can use topical intranasal vasoconstrictors such as phenylephrine drops. They should not take them for more than four days to minimize rebound congestion.
  • Ear tubes : If a child's ear infections are frequent or do not respond to medications, a doctor may consider a myringotomy with ear tube installation. Myringotomy is the procedure of creating a tiny incision in the eardrum to alleviate pressure in the middle ear and drain fluid. Ear tubes typically last 6-18 months, with some long-term ear tubes lasting even longer.

Do’s and Don’ts

Most home remedies for ear infections focus on pain alleviation. Pain from an ear infection may typically be managed while waiting for the condition to go away. It is also critical to keep a careful eye on the disease. The information given here will help you in managing the problem.

Do’sDon’ts
Take prescribed medicines. Let water enter the ears
Eat plenty of fruits & vegetablesOver-medicate
Keep ears free of ear waxGet exposed to loud, noisy activities and places.
Dry the ears after taking a shower Eat foods containing artificial colors & sweeteners.
Prevent water to enter the ears Use unwanted objects to clean the ears.

Care at Medicover Hospitals

At Medicover hospitals, we have the most trusted group of doctors and healthcare specialists who are competent in offering the finest medical treatment to our patients with compassion and care. To treat Otitis Media, we take a holistic approach that includes the active participation of healthcare professionals from several departments, each with their area of expertise, to address the disease for comprehensive treatment, recovery, and well-being. Our excellent ENT doctors diagnose and systematically treat the illness leading to successful treatment outcomes.

Citations

Otitis Media Otitis media 16063 (2016) Acute Otitis Media Middle Ear Infection Middle ear infection (otitis media) Ear Infections (Otitis Media)
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