Ear drainage can be a sign of many conditions, depending on what kind of fluid is coming from the ear. Ear discharge is the highest ear wax. However, it may also include blood, clear or milky white liquid. It can also be a combination of these. Ear wax is yellow to orange-brown in color and is usually not a medical problem. Other types of drainage, however, may indicate conditions that may require medical attention. Not all cases do – familiarize yourself with the different types below if you need to see a doctor.
In most cases, a broken eardrum (or perforated eardrum) is not a medical emergency; however, it should be checked by a doctor. In this case, the ear clearance is usually obvious, but may also be bloody and white-yellow. Typically, only small amounts of drainage occur. It can be frightening to see fluid coming out of your ear. Most cases will not be an emergency. However, in many cases, it will be useful to follow up with your physician to ensure proper treatment. Fortunately, aside from traumatic injury, side effects such as tinnitus or hearing loss will not be permanent and will improve with time and appropriate treatment.
Causes of ear drainage
In general, you should not worry about any logic given to get the fluid out of your ears. Your doctor, however, will consider these if your ear discharge is not related to a common cause. If you have any of the following common conditions, you can see discharge from your ear:
Damage to Ear
It is easy to damage our ears with fingers or by cotton swabs. You may think that you are cleaning your ears, but in reality, you are introducing bacteria, and if you push a cotton swab too deep in your ear or scratch your ear canal with a nail, you are at risk of infection. These are both situations where the eardrum is intact. There are other circumstances when the eardrum is compromised, which can cause ear irritation.
One cause of ear drainage is to spend time in “dirty water”, like a river or lake, can place bacteria or fungus in place of the middle ear if the ear does not protect against natural obstructions. Moisture, combined with bacteria in the ear, can cause infection. This condition is called otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. Damage to the ear canal can make it vulnerable to infection as well.
Inner Ear Infections
A severe inner ear infection can actually cause the eardrum to burst. If you have increasing pain and fever with an earache, a bloody discharge is associated with decreasing pain, this is probably a possible sign of a broken brow. A hole in the eardrum is more likely that you will find water or debris inside the ear and may cause chronic inflammation, which can lead to a condition called
chronic mastoiditis, something to avoid.
Other common symptoms are:
- Ear wax
- Trauma (blood or cerebrospinal fluid)
- Malignant otitis externa
When to see a doctor?
In situations where your ear is scratchy all the time, swollen or you experience hearing loss, call for an immediate appointment. Some of these symptoms may indicate severe ear conditions.
If ear irritation seems normal that continues for weeks or months, then it is best to seek medical treatment to deal with infection and other conditions. If you are experiencing ear irritation with dual vision, severe and frequent headaches, facial weakness, or increased dizziness, then visit the ER to ensure that there is not a more serious underlying condition. If the condition lasts for more than 2 or 3 months, your baby may have to insert ducts into the ears. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia. A surgeon places a small drainage tube through the eardrum to aid fluid drainage. Hearing should improve immediately.
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If you suspect that ear drainage is not the result of an ear emergency, you may want to solve the problem on your own, but you need to avoid the following:
- Do not try to blindly clean your ear with a cotton swab or any other object.
- Do not put or apply for any medicine in your ear until you have seen a doctor.
- Do not try to put gauze or other objects into your ear to prevent drainage.
You may feel like you should “wait” to see if the drainage clears on its own but in some cases, a doctor is your best option. Such cases include:
- Severe pain that will not subside
- Persistent high fever
- A significant amount of bright red blood from the ear
- Drainage after a significant blow to the head
- Sudden hearing loss
- A sharp object causing bloody drainage
This condition resolves on its own within 4 to 6 weeks. Unless your child has an upper respiratory infection, antibiotics are not required.
Ear drainage can be a sign of many conditions, depending on what kind of fluid is coming from the ear. However, in many cases, it will be useful to follow up with your physician to ensure proper treatment. Fortunately, aside from traumatic injury, side effects such as tinnitus or hearing loss will not be permanent and will improve with time and appropriate treatment. You should not worry about any logic given to get the fluid out of your ears. Some common symptoms are Ear wax, Dermatitis, Trauma, Malignant otitis externa e.t.c.