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Ear discharge is a very common complaint of patients presenting to the ENT doctor. It affects all age group from children to old age.

The most common conditions causing ear discharge are as follows:

I. Otitis Externa

This is basically infection of the outer part of the ear (outside the ear drum)

· Why does this happen?

-Usually, our ear is able to clear off all the germs that enter the ear, thanks to the ear wax! It protects our ear from infection.

-However, when there is a breach on the skin of the ear canal, the germs can enter inside and cause infection. The most common reasons for this to happen are due to use of ear buds or other sharp items inside the ear to clean or itch it.

-If moisture is trapped in your ear- if after swimming or bathing, water gets trapped inside the ear, it softens the skin and removes some amount of ear wax and allows the germs to enter inside

-Narrow ear canals

-Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis

· Symptoms- Itching, pain (can be severe), hearing loss, pus discharge from ear

· Treatment: usually resolves on one or more courses of antibiotics along with ear drops. Few cases need prolonged treatment or admission with IV antibiotics.

II. Otomycosis:

Also known as Fungal infection of the ear which affects the outer ear canal.

This is different from the black fungus infection seen post covid infection. More common in hot and humid environment. Also more frequent in ear bud users.

· Symptoms include- pus discharge/ black coloured discharge, ear blockage, decreased hearing.

· Treatment includes- cleaning of the ear canal by an ENT specialist, ear drops and antibiotics

III. Otitis media:

This is infection of the middle ear as opposed to fungal ear infections and swimmer’s ear which is infection of the outer ear canal .

Here, the problem lies behind the ear drum.

· It is basically of two types- one where there is hole in the ear drum (safe type), other where there is caries of the bone of the middle ear (unsafe type).

· Symptoms- pus discharge from ear, decreased hearing

· Treatment- antibiotics and ear drops to temporarily settle the infection. Such cases eventually need a surgery according to the involvement of the ear which may include repair of the ear drum alone with/without removal of the caries bone of the ear.

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