Middle Ear Inflammation: What is it, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Otitis media, also known as otitis media, is an infection of the middle ear, located behind the eardrum.
Otitis media, also known as otitis media, is an infection of the middle ear, located behind the eardrum. Middle ear infections can occur due to various microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria. The risk of ear infection in children is higher than in adults. A significant portion of hospital admissions, especially in young children, are ear infections. Most cases of otitis media occur during the winter months and the transition to spring. Ear infections usually resolve without intervention and often do not require medication. The treatment approach may include relieving symptoms such as severe pain. In some cases, antibiotic treatment for the infection can be started with the recommendation of the doctor. Antibiotic treatment may be more commonly preferred in children younger than two years of age. Some individuals have various risk factors that make them more prone to developing otitis media. In these individuals, complications such as hearing problems caused by middle ear infection may be more serious. When the symptoms accompanying middle ear infection become severe, the pain does not go away and the fever does not decrease, it is recommended to consult a healthcare institution without delay.
What are the conditions that make you prone to middle ear infection?
Middle ear infection is among the most common diseases in children. It is most common in children between the ages of 3 months and 3 years. Adults can also experience middle ear infections, but this rate is not as high as in children. Risk factors for ear infections can be summarized as follows.
- Age: Babies and toddlers between the ages of 6 months and 2 years are the age group at risk for ear infections. In environments where children are cared for in groups, such as nurseries and kindergartens, the risk of catching colds and ear infections generally increases.
- Family history: The risk of ear infection may increase if any family member has recurrent otitis media or previous ear infection.
- Having a cold: Colds are among the most common reasons for hospital admissions in children. Colds often increase susceptibility to ear infections.
- Allergic individuals: Due to allergies, edema in the nasal passage and inflammation in the upper respiratory tract may occur. As a result of this condition, the eustachian tube in the inner structure of the ear may become blocked due to the growth of adenoids (adenoids), thus preventing the flow of ear fluids. This condition, which causes fluid to accumulate in the middle ear, can cause increased pressure in the ear, serious pain and infections.
- Having some chronic diseases: There is an increased risk of ear infections in individuals with chronic (long-term) diseases, patients with suppressed immune systems, or various chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and cystic fibrosis.
- Seasonal transitions: Some weather factors may pose a risk for otitis media. The incidence of ear infections may increase, especially in the autumn and winter months, and in individuals with seasonal allergies, when the amount of pollen increases.
- Children with cleft palate-lip problems: In children with cleft palate, the discharge of ear fluid may be negatively affected due to problems in the Eustachian tube and bone structure. This can sometimes result in otitis media.
The most common condition that can cause otitis media is serous otitis media, also known as otitis media with effusion. In otitis media with effusion, there is no infection due to bacteria or viruses. This condition usually occurs when fluid in the ear continues to accumulate after the middle ear infection has healed or due to disorders related to the eustachian tube. Due to chronic middle ear infections with effusion, fluid continues to remain in the ear and increases the risk of new ear infections, especially in children. Hearing loss is among the most undesirable complications of otitis media with effusion. Another condition known as chronic suppurative otitis media involves ear infections that do not heal with standard treatment methods. This can cause serious complications such as perforation of the eardrum.
What are the symptoms of middle ear infection?
Middle ear infection has various symptoms, and these symptoms may vary according to age groups. Common symptoms can be listed as follows.
- Especially in young children, loss of appetite, moodiness and irritability, crying attacks, sleep problems, pulling the ear while lying down
- High fever
- ear discharge
- Hearing Problem
- Balance Losses
In the presence of ear infection, it is often possible to prevent complications and relieve symptoms with early diagnosis and correct treatment planning. If the symptoms do not subside and last for a long time, in children under 6 months of age, in the presence of very severe ear pain, in case of bloody or inflammatory fluid coming from the ear, and in cases of hearing loss, a healthcare provider should be consulted without delay.
What are the Diagnosis Methods of Middle Ear Inflammation?
A detailed history and evaluation of symptoms are important for diagnosis of ear infections. The use of an otoscope, which allows evaluation of the outer ear and eardrum after a comprehensive physical examination, also forms the basis of diagnosis. During examination with an otoscope, the healthy eardrum appears pinkish or translucent, whereas in the presence of infection it may appear edematous and red. The presence of fluid in the middle ear can be evaluated by blowing some air into the eardrum with a device known as a pneumatic otoscope device. The movement of the eardrum is examined by blowing air from the device. In the presence of fluid and therefore inflammation in the middle ear, the movement of the eardrum is limited and it is generally not expected to move back and forth. Another method that can be used to evaluate possible ear infections is tympanometry. It may be possible to evaluate the movements of the eardrum with tympanometry. Since it is not possible to evaluate hearing with tympanometry, hearing tests are also among the methods to be used in cases of hearing loss caused by middle ear infection.
What are the Treatment Approaches for Middle Ear Inflammation?
The main treatment approach for middle ear infections is monitoring. However, treatment approaches vary depending on the patient’s age, the severity of the infection, and the amount of fluid accumulated in the middle ear. The most accurate and effective treatment approach is decided by the specialist doctor and the treatment plan is implemented. Approaches such as relieving earache and reducing fever are generally preferred. If bacteria are thought to be the cause of ear infections, an appropriate antibiotic may be prescribed. In mild ear infections, the prescription of antibiotics can be delayed a little with the doctor’s recommendation and the course of the disease can be monitored.
What are the Complications of Middle Ear Inflammation?
Most ear infections do not lead to serious complications in the long term. In cases of recurrent otitis media, the incidence of various complications may increase. These complications can be listed as follows.
- Hearing loss
- Speech delay and developmental delay, especially in young children
- Spread of the infection to the bones around the ear, rarely to the brain and meninges (meningitis)
- A ruptured eardrum usually heals within 3 days in most cases, but some cases may require surgical repair.
Ear infections, including otitis media, are a common disorder that can occur in all age groups, especially children. Most cases are not serious and symptomatic treatment approaches such as painkillers and antipyretics are often sufficient. In addition, in case of recurrent otitis media, hearing problems, fever not decreasing and severe ear discharge, a specialist and experienced doctor should be examined without delay.