Complications from ear infection: What Are the Possible Complications of Ear Infections?
What Are the Possible Complications of Ear Infections?
Ear infections aren’t usually a huge cause for concern. They’re not contagious, and in most cases they clear up on their own or with over-the-counter pain medicine, such as ibuprofen (Advil), and a round of antibiotics. (1)
They’re also very common, especially among children. In fact, at least 8 in 10 children will have one or more ear infections by their third birthday. (1)
Complications, though rare, do occur. When they do, they can be serious. (2)
“Complications can happen at any age, but they’re much more common in children under the age of 1,” says Sujana S. Chandrasekhar, MD, with ENT and Allergy Associates in New York City.
“We’re really aggressive when a small baby comes in with an ear infection because their preformed pathways between the brain and the ear — there are a couple that are open,” which makes small children more prone to complications, Dr. Chandrasekhar says. “Young children we treat early and aggressively to prevent complications. ”
The following are some complications associated with ear infections:
- Hearing Loss This could result if infections occur frequently or never fully heal. Most of the time, hearing loss is only temporary, and the risk of permanent hearing loss due to ear infections is low, affecting about 2 out of every 10,000 children who suffer from a middle ear infection. (3,4) If hearing loss does occur, however, it can be troublesome, especially for young children who are just learning to speak. “The way they learn, speech and language education is by hearing and overhearing,” Chandrasekhar says. It becomes an even more serious concern if the infection affects both ears instead of just one. (5) Prolonged hearing loss among young children could lead to delays in a child learning to talk and understand adults. (6)
- Mastoiditis An infection of the bones behind the ear, mastoiditis can begin as a mild infection with the potential to turn into something serious. In most cases, a child is at risk of developing mastoiditis if he or she has repeat ear infections. Symptoms include redness or swelling on the bone behind the ear, swollen ear lobes, and headaches. If treatment options don’t work and the infection continues to spread, other serious complications can occur, including hearing loss, meningitis, and brain abscess. (7)
- Meningitis This is an infection in the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. (8) Adults and children over age 2 may exhibit flu-like symptoms, including headaches, fever, and nausea, while infants may cry constantly, seem extremely tired, or experience stiffness in their body and neck. Chandrasekhar says if bending your neck forward to touch your chin to your chest really hurts, it could be a sign of meningitis. Meningitis can be life-threatening or can lead to permanent brain damage, so it’s important to see a doctor as soon as you have these signs and symptoms. (9) The usual treatment is hospitalization and antibiotics through an IV for up to 21 days. (4)
- Brain Abscess A brain abscess can occur when pus gathers in the brain as a result of infection. “We see it more often in countries where access to healthcare is not great. But we actually see it sometimes in the United States, and that’s something that needs to be recognized and treated quickly,” Chandrasekhar says. Symptoms of brain abscess include fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, and variations with consciousness. In order to diagnose, a doctor will likely examine the brain and nervous system, specifically looking for any fluid collection in the brain. Brain abscesses are often treated with surgery and antibiotics in combination. (10) It’s definitely considered an emergency, but chances of survival have been improving over the last half century. The recovery rate has improved from 33 percent to 70 percent. (4)
- Ruptured Eardrum If the eardrum ruptures (bursts), which can happen as a result of fluid building up pressure in the middle ear, a small hole results. It usually heals within a couple of weeks. (3) Interestingly, “once the eardrum ruptures, there’s no more pain because there’s no more pressure,” Chandrasekhar says, adding that more than 90 percent of ruptured eardrums heal on their own.
- Facial Paralysis “The facial nerve, which is the nerve that animates your face, runs right through the ear, and you can develop a facial paralysis where one side of your face doesn’t move [as a result of infection],” Chandrasekhar says. This has become less common thanks to antibiotic treatments. It used to occur in 1 in 50 cases of middle ear infections but now only occurs in about 1 in every 2,000 cases. Almost everyone who experiences this complication will make a full recovery, though it’s still considered an emergency and patients should see a doctor right away, Chandrasekhar says. (4)
There’s also a risk that repeat ear infections, which occur in about 25 percent of children, may end up damaging the small bones in the middle ear. This can damage hearing, or it may lead to a condition called cholesteatoma, which occurs when tissue grows and blocks the eardrum. Surgery is usually needed to treat this condition. (3,5,11)
Warning Signs to Watch Out For
“The risk of having any of these complications is extremely low,” Chandrasekhar says. And thanks to advances in treatments, complications have become even more rare. (3)
But there are a few signs to be on the lookout for. Pain that continues to get worse, changes in your mental state, or a very high spiking fever (for instance, jumping from 102 back to 98 to 104 to 99) are all indications there’s potentially something serious going on, Chandrasekhar says.
To better your chances of recovery, visit your doctor as soon as you notice any of these symptoms.
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Loyola Otolaryngologists Find Ear Infections Can Lead to Neurological Complications | News
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MAYWOOD, IL – While antibiotics have greatly reduced the dangers of ear infections, serious neurological complications, including hearing loss, facial paralysis, meningitis and brain abscess still occur, according to an article in the journal Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports.
The article was written by Loyola Medicine otolaryngologists Michael Hutz, MD, Dennis Moore, MD, and Andrew Hotaling, MD. It describes the symptoms, diagnosis and management of the neurologic complications of acute and chronic otitis media (middle ear infection).
Otitis media occurs when a cold, allergy or upper respiratory infection leads to the accumulation of pus and mucus behind the eardrum, causing ear ache and swelling. In developed countries, about 90% of children have at least one episode before school age, usually between the ages of six months and four years. Today, secondary complications from otitis media occur in approximately 1 out of every 2,000 children in developed countries.
The potential seriousness of otitis media was first reported by the Greek physician Hippocrates in 460 B.C. “Acute pain of the ear with continued high fever is to be dreaded for the patient may become delirious and die,” Hippocrates wrote.
The deadliest complication of otitis media is a brain abscess, an accumulation of pus in the brain due to an infection. The most common symptoms are headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, neurologic deficits and altered consciousness. With modern neurosurgical techniques, most brain abscesses can be suctioned or drained, followed by IV antimicrobial treatment for six to eight weeks. During the past 50 years, mortality worldwide from brain abscesses has decreased from 40% to 10% and the rate of full recovery has increased from 33% to 70%.
Other complications include:
Bacterial meningitis: Symptoms include severe headache, high fever, neck stiffness, irritability, altered mental status and malaise. As the infection spreads, the patient develops more severe restlessness, delirium and confusion. Treatment is high-dose IV antibiotics for 7 to 21 days.
Acute mastoiditis: This is an infection that affects the mastoid bone located behind the ear. It must be treated to prevent it from progressing to more serious complications. Treatments include IV antibiotics and placement of a drainage tube.
Hearing loss: Permanent hearing loss is rare, occurring in about 2 out of every 10,000 children who have otitis media.
Facial paralysis: Prior to antibiotics, this debilitating complication occurred in about 2 out of 100 cases of otitis media. Since antibiotics, the rate has dropped to 1 in 2,000 cases. It should be treated as an emergency. About 95% of otitis media patients who develop facial paralysis recover completely.
“Antibiotic therapy has greatly reduced the frequency of complications of otitis media,” Drs. Hutz, Moore and Hotaling wrote. “However, it is of vital importance to remain aware of the possible development of neurologic complication. . . . In order to reduce morbidity, early deployment of a multidisciplinary approach with prompt imaging and laboratory studies is imperative to guide appropriate management.”
Dr. Hutz is a resident, Dr. Moore is an assistant professor and Dr. Hotaling is a professor emeritus in Loyola Medicine’s department of otolaryngology. Their paper is titled, “Neurological Complications of Acute and Chronic Otitis Media.”
Loyola Medicine is recognized for its expert, clinically integrated team for otolaryngology – head and neck surgery. The team has extensive experience in managing all aspects of ear, nose and throat conditions, and is committed to providing the best clinical care, education and research.
Purulent otitis: symptoms, complications, diagnosis, treatment
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Purulent otitis media is an inflammatory process that occurs when pathogenic agents enter the ear canal. In most cases, it develops in the middle and inner parts of the ear against the background of a protracted, long-term inflammatory process and a decrease in the body’s immune defenses, when a bacterial infection joins the inflammation. Children are more susceptible to this disease, but it is also diagnosed in adults quite often.
Types of otitis media
Inflammation is accompanied at first by mild and then by severe throbbing pain radiating to the temple, head or jaw. The ear is blocked, there is tinnitus. With the development of inflammation, body temperature rises, swelling of the ear and the appearance of purulent exudate. Then there is a rupture of the membrane and the release of purulent discharge. With proper and timely treatment, the symptoms of the disease are reduced.
The course of chronic otitis has a less pronounced pain syndrome, suppuration is prolonged and recurrent. The eardrum does not regenerate, which can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss.
External purulent otitis is quite rare and is treated much easier than internal damage to the organ of hearing. The most common cause is trauma to the organ.
Purulent otitis media occurs in two forms – mesotympanitis and epitympanitis. In the first case, the inflammatory process is localized within the mucous membrane of the auditory tube and the tympanic membrane, without affecting the ossicular structures. Epitympanitis is characterized by involvement of bone tissues in the inflammatory process. With a long course of the disease, inflammation can affect the entire organ of hearing and bone tissue.
In many ways, the tendency to inflammatory diseases of the organ of hearing often has a hereditary predisposition. Children are more susceptible to otitis due to the anatomical features of the development of the children’s organ of hearing.
If we consider purulent otitis media, then in most cases it is a complication of acute inflammation resulting from improper or poor-quality treatment.
Purulent otitis can also be caused by an infection in the ear. Among the main pathogenic agents are pneumococci, staphylococci, Proteus, Klebsiella, Pseudomonia, and in some cases fungi. Often, pathogens enter the ear with mucus from the nasopharynx, through the blood during an infectious disease (measles, rubella, influenza), or from the outside when the hearing organ is injured.
Various immunodeficiency conditions, endocrine disorders and improper antibiotic treatment often contribute to the development of the disease.
In the absence of adequate therapy, purulent otitis media can provoke various complications:
- tympanic membrane rupture;
- chronic hearing loss;
- reduction or complete loss of hearing;
- inflammation or paresis of the facial nerve;
- brain abscess, etc.
Diagnosis of purulent otitis media
In the diagnosis of purulent otitis media, it is important to determine the degree of damage to the organ of hearing and the presence of various complications in the course of the disease. To do this, endoscopy of the organ, a study of the auditory analyzer, CT or MRI of the skull, and a study of the level of hearing are performed.
At the first stage, it is important to determine the causative agent of the infection (bacteriological analysis of purulent exudate is carried out) and prescribe adequate antibiotic therapy. It is also recommended to take anesthetics to relieve pain. To remove the accumulated pus, the eardrum is punctured.
Treatment of suppurative otitis
It is recommended to wash the ear with antibiotic solutions and instill it. The course of treatment is supplemented by physiotherapy: UHF, laser therapy, UFO. If during the examination bone destruction, disorders of the vestibular apparatus, paresis of the facial nerve and other disorders are detected, then surgical treatment is performed. During the operation, pus and altered tissues are removed; in especially severe cases, reconstruction of damaged areas is necessary.
The prognosis for the treatment of the disease depends on the stage of the disease and the presence of complications. It is important to start therapy as early as possible, in this case, it will be possible to save hearing. When the first symptoms of purulent otitis appear, you need to make an appointment with an otolaryngologist at the Gaide medical centers for a fee. Specialists of the centers are engaged in the treatment of purulent otitis at any stage of the development of the pathological process. The clinics are equipped with the necessary equipment, and our specialists have extensive experience in the treatment of complex and severe inflammation of the hearing organ.
Otitis externa – causes, symptoms, treatment
What is otitis externa?
This is an inflammation of the tissues of the external auditory canal, eardrum and auricle. Otitis externa is widespread. It is considered acute if it lasts less than 4 weeks, chronic if it lasts longer and/or recurs more than 4 times a year.
IMPORTANT! Information from the article cannot be used for self-diagnosis and self-treatment! Only a doctor can prescribe the necessary examinations, establish a diagnosis and draw up a treatment plan for a consultation!
Symptoms of otitis externa
There are three degrees of severity of otitis externa.
- Mild otitis externa: itching in the ear canal, redness inside the ear, unpleasant sensations in the ear, which are aggravated by pressure on the auricle or tragus (a small protrusion in the center of the auricle). A little clear, odorless liquid may come out of the ear.
- Moderate otitis externa: itching becomes worse, the ear hurts, there is obvious redness inside, the discharge increases, pus may appear. The auditory canal is felt as if filled as a result of edema and retention of the discharge.
- Diffuse (diffuse) otitis externa: severe pain in the ear, radiating to the neck, temple, cheek; the auditory canal is completely blocked; the auricle becomes red and swollen, as are the lymph nodes in the neck. The temperature is elevated, sometimes significantly.
When to go to the doctor?
See a doctor even if you have mild otitis externa. If you have severe pain and a fever, you should call an ambulance or go to the hospital immediately.
Causes of otitis externa
- water that enters the ear while swimming is a breeding ground for bacteria;
- picking the ears with fingers, cleaning them with cotton swabs. As a result, a person damages the thin surface of the skin of the ear canal, which makes it vulnerable to infections;
- eczema, seborrhea, neurodermatitis, local skin irritation (from insect bites, etc.), allergy to earrings or hair products – may cause non-infectious external otitis media.
Otitis externa risk
- The habit of cleaning the ears with cotton swabs, sticks, fingers.
- Frequent swimming, especially in natural waters where the water is not purified.
- Narrow ear canal, eg in children.
- Wearing headphones, hearing aids.
Possible complications of otitis externa
As a rule, otitis externa does not cause complications and is easily treated. However, if complications do occur, they can be as follows:
- temporary hearing loss in the affected ear. Passes after recovery from otitis media;
- chronic otitis externa. It usually occurs when there are difficulties with the treatment of otitis externa, for example, with fungal and mixed bacterial-fungal forms;
- spread of infection to deep tissues – cellulitis of the neck, lymphadenitis, osteomyelitis. Similar complications (malignant otitis media) can occur in patients with immunodeficiency conditions, diabetes, and those receiving chemotherapy. Such complications can be life-threatening.
How to prevent otitis externa?
- Gently dab your ear after bathing, but don’t wipe the ear canal with anything.
- If water gets into your ear, you can shake it out by jumping on one leg and tilting your head to the same side. You can also dry the water in your ear with a hair dryer, setting it to the lowest setting and holding it about 30-40 cm from your ear.
- If you know that your eardrum has been damaged or punctured, you can use ear drops that will prevent bacteria from growing in your ear after water gets in.
- Do not swim in dirty water.
- Do not get into the ear canal with your finger, stick, cotton swab or swab – in a word, nothing.
- Protect your ears when using hairspray if you know it can irritate the skin inside the ear canal;
- If you have had ear surgery or ear infections, visit an ENT before swimming.
Diagnosis of otitis externa
Usually it is not difficult. Otitis externa is easily identified by its symptoms and the appearance of the ear and ear canal. The doctor may examine your ear with an otoscope. If he wants to make sure that the eardrum is not damaged, he can use a curette to clean the ear and take a deeper look.
If otitis media is diffuse, the doctor may need additional diagnostics of the condition of the middle ear, determination of the nature of otitis media (bacterial or otherwise), etc.
Treatment of otitis externa
the passage to clear itself, as it happens normally.
- Cleaning and irrigation of the ear canal. As a rule, the doctor cleans it with a curette to free it from particles of skin, stuck earwax and dried discharge (serous or purulent). This is necessary so that the ear drops can spill to the entire depth of the ear canal.
- Ear drops prescribed by an ENT or general practitioner (GP). Usually these are drops with antibiotics and / or corticosteroids. For severe pain, analgesics may be used.
- In case of severe swelling of the external auditory canal, the doctor may first replace the drops with turunda soaked in medicine. When the edema subsides, it is easy to remove the turunda from the ear, and you can continue to be treated with drops.
- When applying cold drops, hold them in the palm of your hand for a while to reduce discomfort. After the drops are in your ear, lie down for a few minutes on your healthy side so that the drops are better absorbed. You can ask someone to administer the drops for you – it’s more convenient.