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The ear pain it is a widespread condition, which can be caused by infections and inflammation of the outer, middle or inner ear, as well as structures adjacent to the ear itself.
This is a common symptom that can be caused by various diseases.
In some cases, ear pain deserves NOT to be underestimated, as it could be a sign of the need for urgent medical care. In other cases, fortunately, it is possible to treat transient pain with home and natural remedies, such as with hot packs, the use of OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen.
The causes of ear pain
It is not always easy to understand which are the causes of ear pain, considering that the ear has many parts, and each of them can cause pain or other discomfort. The pain can come from one or more parts of the ear, depending on the clinical situation of reference.
For example, the following are causes of external earache:
- skin infection,
- chronic skin irritations, such as atopic dermatitis,
Other causes involve the middle ear, the one separated from the external auditory canal by the eardrum. This is traditionally the area where the nerves involved with hearing are present. It is a relatively closed space and pain is frequently determined by the action of anything that can increase the pressure in that area.
The middle ear infections they are a common cause of otitis media, especially in children, largely determined by a virus or bacterium that invades and infects stagnant fluid in the middle ear.
Severe otitis media is characterized by the collection of fluids inside the middle ear and is usually due to a dysfunction of the Eustachian tube, which is the channel that drains the fluid and equalizes the pressure between the middle ear and back of the throat. The increase in pressure can cause pain and satiety, but usually resolves over time. However, this fluid can also become infected, causing pain and fever.
Then there are the causes of internal earache, that is the area that is adjacent to the middle ear. The inner ear is the site of the labyrinth system that sends messages to the brain to help balance. Inner ear inflammation is associated with dizziness, but not necessarily with pain.
Symptoms of earache
In addition to pain symptom, earache evidently depends on the underlying cause. For example, inflammation of the outer ear is accompanied by symptoms of:
Symptoms of external otitis include:
- Hearing reduction,
- Auricular tinnitus.
Symptoms of otitis media (middle ear infection) include:
- Deep pain,
- Hearing reduction,
- Ear drainage if there is associated eardrum perforation,
- Inflammation of the inner ear (labyrinthitis, dizziness),
- Vertigo (the sense of the room or environment that turns),
- Nausea and vomit,
- Hearing reduction.
When, on the other hand, ear pain occurs due to a disease or injury to a structure adjacent to the ear, the specific symptoms will be related to that structure.
Read also: Ear infection, treatment and prevention
When to seek help from a doctor
In most cases, them ear pain it "heals" itself, not requiring specific medical assistance.
For example, adults with colds or upper respiratory infections may develop ear pain in association with a runny nose, another common symptom of a pun. Ear pain should therefore resolve with the improvement of the cold.
Middle ear infections in children are often self-limiting and do not need antibiotics, but it is sometimes difficult to determine that a newborn's fever is actually caused by an ear infection. It is therefore reasonable to contact your pediatrician immediately to find out if the baby or child needs to be evaluated.
There are also other situations that require specific medical assistance.
Think of the earache associated with hearing loss, unexplained fever and general malaise or feeling unwell. Vertigo also often requires medical attention, especially if there is also hearing loss and tinnitus, because these can be signs of a nerve tumor called acoustic neuroma.
People with diabetes or who are immunocompromised are at risk for malignant otitis externa, a condition that requires aggressive antibiotic treatment. Symptoms include earache, fever and redness around the ear.
A person who complains of earache, but who also has fever, headache, neck stiffness, lethargy, and may show signs of meningitis or encephalitis, should immediately seek emergency medical attention.
Diagnosis of the cause of ear pain?
The doctor is usually able to do one first diagnosis of the causes of ear pain simply by talking to the patient. In general, x-rays and other examinations are not necessary.
In order to know more, we naturally invite you to contact your doctor, avoiding underestimating the signs that could lead to worse consequences.
We naturally remember that most situations of ear pain can be treated at home, with the aim of reducing inflammation and the sensation of pain.
It may be helpful to keep the area warm, or to take some over-the-counter, non-prescription pain relievers. If the pain does not go away, or the situation worsens, it would obviously be necessary to talk to your doctor of reference, in order to understand what the causes of this situation may be and to proceed, consequently, to identify the most appropriate remedies for being able to find the right well-being.