What is Otitis Externa (OE)?
Otitis Externa means inflammation/ infection of the EAR CANAL.
This is usually due to moistness/water entering the ear canal of a susceptible person. The water softens the skin of the ear canal and this may become infected. (Usually the water runs back out, the ear dries out and the bacteria and fungi don't cause any problems.)
These bacteria and fungi reside on the surface of the healthy skin throughout the body, and it is only when one of these bugs invades damaged skin does infection set in. Water elevates the Ph level of the canal.
Another common cause of otitis externa is trauma to the ear canal-by cotton buds, hair clips, fingernails, matchsticks, and car keys - all used to scratch the ear!
There may also be a localised inflammation, due to a boil in the upper third of the canal, usually associated with a hair follicle. Sometimes skin conditions such as dermatitis, psoriasis, may also affect the skin of the canal. Chronic otitis externa can occur secondarily to active chronic otitis media, (middle ear infection.) Uncommonly, a reaction to certain eardrops is the cause.
In the case of fungal otitis externa, sometimes the fungus may live on the surface of a hearing aid mould, which results in a relapse of the condition following apparent successful treatment.
Herpes Zoster Oticus (Shingles) can infect the ear canal, but is quite rare. Usually the person is seriously ill and hospitalised.