We have heard about ear infections often in children. At 6-24 months, it occurs when fluids build up in the ear and get infected. But this infection can even happen in adults also.
A factsheet from Leading International Fungal Education (LIFE) reports about fungal ear infections. It states the acute and chronic forms of ear fungal infections.
What are the fungal ear infection symptoms, and how to treat it? Let us discuss the concept in detail below.
What are Fungal Ear Infections?
This is a bacterial infection of the outer ear. Fungal infection of the outer ear canal affects the eardrum and ear hole. The passageway is the External Auditory Canal.
The medical name for this fungal infection is Otomycosis. These fungal infections occur, generally in one ear at a time. Sometimes, it may affect both ears.
The ear canal infection has the name Otitis Externa. Often called Swimmer’s Ear, this infection affects the ears. It states that continuously exposing to water causes the canal to become susceptible to infections.
A published 2014 study described in the PubMed Central – National Library of Medicine (NIH) details Otomycosis. It reports on its predisposing factors, clinical features, and treatment implications.
The prime cause behind an ear infection is a fungus. There are over 60 varied fungus species responsible for ear infections. The most fungal ear infections occur due to Aspergillus species and Candida species.
Candida causes yeast infection. Aspergillus causes lung infections, allergic reactions, and other organ infections.
Cerumen is an ear wax within the ear canal that protects the ear lining from fungus. More water into the ear canal removes this protective wax. Then, it results in fungal growth. Also, using cotton swabs, metal picks, or wooden sticks cause the growth of fungi.
Fungal ear infections affect people residing in warm or tropical climates. It’s because fungi thrive in damp and warm places. In the UK, it occurs in summer and winter.
Besides, people who are involved in water sports face this infection. Also, diabetes patients and those with a weak immune system have a higher risk factor.
Chronic skin conditions, like Eczema inside the ear and trauma to the ear canal, are also risk factors. Also, people having chronic medical conditions are prone to this infection.
Signs and Symptoms
It affects the ear canal and its outer parts. The outer ear parts are the tragus, helix, and lobule (ear lobe).
The symptoms are as follows:
Pain in the ears
Dryness and itching
Inflammation, soreness, and redness in ears
Ringing in the ears
Ear discharge (Smelly discharge of a thick fluid)
Fluid discharge from the ears is the most common symptom. The fluid is yellow. It may also be in other colors like grey, white, black, or green.
As the immune system weakens, fungal ear infections become more prevalent. So, if there are either of the symptoms discussed above, it is vital to meet a doctor. To receive proper treatment/medications, it’s imperative to diagnose the problem.
As a result of the symptoms, doctors will gather information about the patient’s medical history and family. Next, they perform a physical exam of the ears with an Otoscope. It is an instrument to look into the ear canal and eardrum.
Further, they might take fluid swabs, build-up, or discharge in the ears. Doctors send them for laboratory tests to check for fungal or bacterial infections. Such tests involve looking for microbes under a microscope.
Several antifungal treatments are available for a fungal ear infection. It may be ear drops, oral medication, or topical antibiotics. But the treatment choice depends on the infection’s seriousness and the doctor’s recommendation.
Cleaning the ears is the preliminary step toward the treatment of ear infections. It is an effective method to remove any debris or discharge build-up in the ears. This process has a name called “Aural Toilet.”
The doctors will rinse the ears with the help of different tools. The tools can include swabs, syringes, or suction devices. The procedure may cause slight discomfort, for which the doctors give painkillers. Cleaning the ears removes the debris and prevents the re-growth of fungus.
2% Acetic Acid is another ear drop for Otomycosis. Another option for Otomycosis is 5% Aluminium Acetate ear drops. Miconazole, Amphotericin B, and Econazole are other drops suggested by doctors.
Of these, Clotrimazole is a prevalent medication used to treat Otomycosis. It is mandatory to follow the doctor’s advice to use any medication.
Topical medications like ointments or antifungal creams can help treat Otomycosis. Applying these creams to the outer ears aids in removing any fungus and treats the infection.
They further mitigate hard crust formed on the ears due to fluid discharge and ease the symptoms.
Doctors can prescribe an oral antifungal medication when treatments are unsuccessful.
Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and Acetaminophen (Tylenol) ease pain and inflammation. It is advisable to avoid taking oral medications in case of liver disease.
Prevention of Otomycosis
How to prevent Otomycosis? A few simple home remedies can help in the prevention of Otomycosis. Let’s look at the steps below.
Never do overcleaning of ears. Leave some wax inside the ear. It will help remove fungus with its antifungal properties.
Avoid swimming until the infection subsides. Dry the ears well using a towel or a hair dryer after swimming. Also, using earplugs or swim caps will prevent water out of the ears.
Another alternative after swimming is to use an ear-drop solution. White vinegar and rubbing alcohol mixed in equal proportions make this solution. Also, using Acetic Acid ear drops is a good remedy when water enters the ears.
Avoid scratching the ears inside and outside. It may damage the skin surrounding the ears and urges a feeling of itching.
Never use cotton buds inside the ears. It can remove the protective wax and cause fungal growth.
Suggested Reading: Best Home Remedies for Sinus Infection
Fungal ear infections are common in individuals with weak immune systems. Also, having chronic health problems can cause these infections.
To conclude, a fungal ear infection creates discomfort but lasts a limited time. So, ensure getting rid of a weakened immune system and other chronic skin conditions. Check with the doctor for symptoms and seek medical attention for prevention and cure.