A fungal ear infection, or to use the proper term for the condition, Otomycosis, is an infection that is said to impact the outer area of the ear. There are many different types of fungus that can have an effect on this part of the ear, causing problems for the sufferer.
The person that suffers from this form of infection will often find that they suffer from a reduced level of hearing, a redness of the ear and pain. The level of pain will differ depending on the severity of the condition and of course the person involved. Different people have different thresholds for pain and it may be that one person suffers greatly from the condition while another person deals with a similar condition in their stride.
What to do
In order to properly and effectively diagnose a fungal ear infection, it is important for a fully trained medical practitioner to study the symptoms that the person is experiencing and to also carry out tests on any discharge that may be being caused by the infection. This means it is important to visit a medical practitioner as soon as possible when this condition becomes apparent. There is a need for this infection to be treated with the use of anti-fungal medications.
The different types of fungal infection
The fact that many different types of fungal species can cause Otomycosis to occur, makes it slightly more difficult to keep proper tracks on why the infection has occurred. It is believed that the most common form of fungal species which has an impact on the sufferer is Aspergillus. This form of etiologic agent is said to be responsible for well over 75% of fungal ear infection cases. The next most common form of agent that causes a fungal ear infection would have to be Candida. Other causes for this form of infection which are a lot rarer include Phycomycetes, Actinomyces and the Rhizopus.
It may be that some of these fungal species are found in certain types of environment, which will place certain people at a greater level of risk than other people. It is also worthwhile to note that some of these agents will only impact on people who are already at risk, which means that certain people should be aware of the heightened level of risk. People who suffer from a lower level of immune system than other people, or who are suffering from diabetes mellitus should be aware that they will be at a higher level of risk of a fungal ear infection, than most other people.
Symptoms of infection
It is always helpful to be aware of the symptoms of a condition and there are some things to look out for when it comes to a fungal infection of the ear. In many cases, the ear will be red, especially in the external section of the ear canal. The ear will be sore and many people will experience itchiness in their ear. There can also be a discharge from the ear when suffering from this form of infection. The discharge associated with this form of infection will often be yellow and it is commonly very thick.
There will be times when the discharge can be black or white, so it is important to be aware of these potential outcomes and not to be overtly alarmed if this turns out to be the case. Preparing yourself for one form of discharge and then receiving another can be upsetting and distressing but with this form of infection, the discharge can come in a number of different colours. It is also very common for sufferers to experience a feeling as though their ear is full and to have a problem with hearing on a particular side. While a fungal ear infection can affect both ears, it is not uncommon for just one ear to be impacted upon.
Diagnosis can depend on a person's medical history
For a fungal ear infection to be properly diagnosed, it can be helpful to have a reliable doctor that is on familiar terms with your medical history. Your GP will stand a better chance of successfully diagnosing the clinical symptoms of this form of condition if they have an awareness of any other conditions or diseases a patient has experienced. Anyone who has a weaker immune system or who is suffering from diabetes mellitus will be at greater risk of this ailment, which is why it is important for doctors to examine for these conditions. For many people, ailments and conditions do not come alone, which is why having full access to the medical history and record of a patient will increase the likelihood of a GP making an effective call about a person's condition.
Is misdiagnosis possible?
It is not uncommon for patients to suffer a misdiagnosis and find that they are provided with ear drops of an antibiotic nature to clear their condition. This is where a GP believes that the type of infection is bacteria based infection as opposed to a fungi infection. If the doctor believes this and there is no form of improvement from this form of medication, there is a greater likelihood of this style of ear infection being in play. One way in which a doctor can make a more informed diagnosis of the condition is to take a sample of the discharge that is being produced by the ear. This is where the discharge should be placed under a microscope and then checked for the presence of fungi.
Firstly, a doctor usually needs to clean the ear. They may use a rinse or a suction tool to do this. Cleaning will get rid of debris or a buildup of material and allow the medication to work better. Next, the ear is cleaned and dried, as much as possible, to inhibit further growth of fungus. Note that a person should not attempt to clean their own ears with cotton swabs or other tools, as this could worsen the situation.
Ear drops or topical agents
A doctor may prescribe eardrops that contain an antifungal agent. Research has shown that 1 percent clotrimazole eardrops show high rates of cure and prevention of recurrence. Eardrops may also contain econazole, miconazole, or amphotericin B, among other chemicals. Antifungals may also be in the form of a topical cream that is applied to the outer ear.
Other topical include:
- Aluminum Acetate
- Salicylic Acid
- Hydrogen Peroxide
These agents can help to treat the fungus or soften the crust that forms to help other medications penetrate better.
Oral medications, such as itraconazole or voriconazole, are usually reserved for more severe infections, or infections that are difficult to get rid of with topical agents. Some fungus species are resistant to antifungal eardrops. Oral antifungals can be a problem for people who have liver disease. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can be used to ease any minor pain.
There are a few factors that can help prevent otomycosis, including:
- Leaving a small amount of earwax in the ears for its natural anti-fungal properties
- Drying the ears well after swimming and bathing
- Using earplugs when swimming to keep water out
- Using a hairdryer on low speed to dry ears, being careful not to burn the skin
- Avoid scratching the ears as this may damage the skin and make it easier for a fungus to invade
- Avoid putting cotton swabs in the ears
Overall, otomycosis is not dangerous and it is easily treated with antifungal treatments. Otomycosis can become chronic if someone does not respond to treatment or has a weakened immune system, diabetes mellitus, or a chronic skin condition, such as eczema. This fungal infection can usually be prevented by keeping the ears dry and avoiding contaminated water sources.
If you think you may be suffering from some form of ear infection make sure you book yourself in for an appointment with you GP. To find out more about ear infections click the links below.
Outer Ear Infection Middle Ear Infection