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Ear Discharge: How to Tackle the Problem?

Written by
Dr. Bindia
and medically reviewed by Dr. K. Shobana

Published on Jun 22, 2018 and last reviewed on Jul 29, 2022   -  4 min read

Abstract

Ear discharge, also called otorrhea, is the drainage of blood, ear wax, pus, or fluid from the ear. The below article details the same.

Contents
Ear Discharge: How to Tackle the Problem?

What Is Ear Discharge?

Ear discharge is also known as otorrhea. It refers to drainage of blood, ear wax, pus, or fluid from the ear. Most of the time, ear wax is discharged from the ear. Ear wax is a yellow to orange-brown-colored naturally produced oil in the body. It acts as a barrier and ensures that dust, bacteria, and other foreign bodies do not enter the ear. Ear drainage can be a sign of certain health conditions, depending on what type of fluid is coming from the ear. For example, some conditions, such as a ruptured eardrum, can cause blood or other fluids to drain from the ear. This kind of discharge signifies that the ear has been injured or infected and requires medical assistance.

What Causes Ear Discharge?

Generally, the fluid leaking from an ear is ear wax, making its way out of the body. A ruptured eardrum can cause white, bloody, or yellow fluid drainage.

Causes of a ruptured eardrum include:

Other less common causes of ear discharge include:

Because these ear discharge causes are rare, they are less likely to be a cause for concern. However, a healthcare provider can decide if the ear discharge is linked to one of these issues.

What Are the Complications of Ear Discharge?

The possible complications of ear discharge include:

How Is Ear Discharge Diagnosed?

A doctor often uses an otoscope during an ear examination. An otoscope is a lighted microscope to examine the ear and identify the drainage's underlying cause. The doctor can use a pneumatic otoscope that produces an air puff to show how the eardrum moves in response to pressure. In addition, doing so indicates whether there is an accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum. Another test called tympanometry can help doctors examine the health of the middle ear. This test involves inserting a probe into the ear and evaluating how the middle ear responds to different pressure levels. Finally, during an ear examination, the doctors may perform a hearing test or use a tuning fork to test hearing levels.

What Is the Treatment for Ear Discharge?

Treatment of the ear discharge depends on its cause. In some cases, the condition does not need medical treatment.

Home Care:

Caring for ear discharge at home includes:

What Is the Prevention of Ear Discharge?

To avoid ear infections, the following tips may help:

When to See a Medical Professional?

One may feel like "wait it out" to see if the drainage clears on its own. However, sometimes, seeing a healthcare provider is the best option. Such cases include:

Conclusion:

Fluid drains from the ear for several reasons, and ear wax is the most common type of drainage. Ear wax does not cause problems unless there is a buildup or the ear produces too much wax. In other cases, fluid leaking from the ear may be a sign of a severe medical issue that may need medical attention. Therefore, any injury-related ear drainage should be considered a medical emergency. Fortunately, apart from traumatic injury, side effects like tinnitus or hearing loss are temporary and improve with time and proper care.

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Last reviewed at:
29 Jul 2022  -  4 min read

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