odorless Clear Discharge from Ear!
Otorrhea also knew as ear discharge means ‘any fluid oozing out of ear’. Most of the times clear discharge from ear is simply the ear sebum, also known as earwax. This ear wax is a normal phenomenon & prevents bacteria, foreign bodies, and dust from entering the ear. While some people experience pus or blood oozing out of ear which signifies infection of ear or trauma & calls for immediate medical help. In this article, we will look upon the possible causes of clear ear discharge, its treatment, and when to seek medical attention.
What Are The Causes Of Clear Ear From Discharge?
Lots of underlying causes are there in which ear discharge is clear or transparent. They include:
Middle ear infection
Middle ear infection also called otitis media is the commonest cause of clear ear discharge & occurs when the part or whole of the middle ear is infected and is sometimes characterized by permanent ear perforation. It equally affects males and females and its prevalence is 16 per thousand in the urban population. It usually occurs after pharyngitis (sore throat) or sinusitis (inflammation of nasal sinuses)
There are two types of Middle Ear Infection
Tubotympanic also called as benign type and involves inferior part of ear. It has no serious risk factors.
Atticoantral also called as dangerous type and involves superior part of ear. It has high risk of complications.
External ear Infections
External ear infections also known as otitis externa can cause clear discharge from ear and is caused due to inflammation of external ear which may involve pinna(outer ear) as well. It is commonly seen in a hot, humid climate and in swimmers due to excessive sweat which changes the climate and pH of the external ear.
Fungal infections of the ear also known as otomycosis are caused by Candidia albicans or Aspergillus niger. It is seen in the humid climate of tropical and subtropical regions. It can also be caused by excessive use of ear drops and can cause excessive itch and discharge from the ear.
Ear trauma can result from the insertion of pins, matchsticks, or other instruments inside the ear or while vigorous clearing of the ear. This trauma usually causes blood stained discharge from ear instead of clear discharge.
Impacted ear wax
Wax is composed of sebum and ear cells and is a mixture of fatty secretions from ear. Wax has a protective function and helps to keep acidic pH of the ear. It can sometimes cause ear discharge or difficulty in hearing but is relatively a benign condition.
Other cause of clear ear discharge includes viral infection, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, foreign body, skull fracture, or mastoiditis.
How Discharge From Ear Present?
Discharge can either be watery, blood stained, mucoid, or pus. It can be associated with severe ear pain called ‘Otalgia’.
When to Seek Medical Help?
you should call upon your doctor if you suffer chronic clear ear discharge i.e discharge more than 3 days. It is blood stained, has an offensive smell, and is constant. If you experience pain in your ear or your eardrum is bulging or swollen and you experience any hearing loss, fever, headache, facial weakness, or asymmetry. Injury is the major cause for immediate medical help.
How Can Doctor Diagnose The Cause Of Your Ear Discharge?
Your doctor will ask you some questions before investigating the cause of your ear discharge e.g
- When did the discharge begin?
- What was the color of discharge and was it clear or yellow or red in color?
- How did it look like?
- What were the associated symptoms e.g fever, headache, nausea, vomiting?
- Did it relieve itself anytime before coming to the hospital?
After asking a couple of questions your doctor will investigate you In the following ways.
- Examination of the ear under a microscope gives very useful information regarding the cause of ear discharge, any perforation, polyp, foreign body, mass or impacted wax inside the ear.
- Audiogram gives an assessment of the degree of hearing loss associated with discharge and tells about the type of hearing loss one is suffering from.
- Culture and sensitivity of ear discharge to select proper antibiotics ear drops.
- Tympanometry to check the health of the middle ear.
- Hearing tests, tuning fork tests to assess hearing levels.
- X-ray of mastoid process (bone behind the ear) to rule out mastitis which is the inflammation of the mastoid bone
- CT scan of the temporal bone
What Treatment Options Do You Have?
- Ear toilet: removing all the discharge and debris from the ear. It can be done by earbuds or suction devices. The ear is irrigated with normal saline and is cleared by suction. It must be dried after the process
- Ear drops: antibiotic ear drops are used to reduce the infection. You are supposed to lie down and your doctor will instill drops in your ear by applying pressure so as to aid drops in the middle ear. It is done 3-4 times a day.
- Systemic antibiotics: they are useful for chronically (long term) infected ear.you are supposed to take them orally 3 times a day for a minimum of 5 days.
- Steroids: they help to reduce the inflammation inside the ear and reduce infection and pain. Steroids should not be used for long term management as they cause serious side effects.
- Debridement: any perforation is debris to allow healthy ear tissue to heal. Eardrum takes 2 months to heal after perforation and if it is not healed after 2 months, surgery of eardrum is performed.
- Surgical treatment: any foreign body, polyp, adhesions should be removed before local treatment with antibiotics. Ear perforation is repaired and reconstructed with myringoplasty(closure of ear perforation).
How Clear Discharge From Ear Can Be Prevented?
You are instructed to keep your ear hygiene and keep the ear clean. Don’t let the water inside the ear while bathing, swimming, or washing hair. Hard nose blowing is avoided as it can cause infection from the nose to enter the middle ear. The ear should be kept dry in a warm and humid environment to maintain its pH. Trauma should be prevented and if occurs warrant immediate medical help.