Ear infections typically occur when fluid becomes built up behind the eardrum, causing pain and inflammation. Since most ear infections are caused by bacteria growth, they are often treated with antibiotics.
However, this is not the case for every ear infection; some factors that can affect treatment options and outcomes include the cause of the infection, the severity, the location and your age. In addition, recurrent ear infections often require a different approach altogether.
If you have an ear infection, below is information that can help you understand a doctor’s recommendation.
Causes of Ear Infections
Ear infections are oftentimes byproducts of upper respiratory infections, especially those caused by bacteria. The bacteria known as
Hemophilus influenza and Streptococcus pneumoniae are the most common culprits. It’s often the case that as you recover from a viral respiratory illness, bacteria can travel to the middle ear and become trapped, leading to a secondary infection in the ears.
Types of Ear Infections
There are many different types of ear infections. Common ones include:
- Acute Otitis Media (AOM) – This is the most common type of ear infection in children. It occurs when fluid is unable to drain through the narrow Eustachian tubes, so it becomes trapped and infected with bacteria.
- Otitis Media with Effusion (OME) – This means the infection has cleared up but fluid is still trapped.
- Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion (COME) – This describes uninfected fluid becoming trapped on a recurring basis, possibly leading to hearing loss.
- Otitis Externa – More commonly known as swimmer’s ear, this condition occurs when water becomes trapped and grows bacteria in the ear canal.
When Are Antibiotics Used?
Antibiotics are typically prescribed for both AOM and swimmer’s ear. Since OME and COME occur after a bacterial infection has cleared, antibiotics are not used to relieve the fluid buildup.
What Types of Antibiotics Are Used?
Swimmer’s ear is often treated with an antibiotic ear drop rather than an oral antibiotic.
For AOM, oral treatments such as amoxicillin are common. Oral antibiotics are usually prescribed to be taken for seven to 10 days. Make sure to always finish your antibiotics, even if you feel better before you run out.
Your doctor may not prescribe antibiotics at all, but rather opt to take a wait-and-see approach if your infection is mild. Recurring ear infections are sometimes treated surgically with ear tubes.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with experts, call Pinnacle ENT Associates today.
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- The Connection Between Hearing Loss & Tinnitus
- Ear Tube FAQ