The common cause of otitis media or a middle ear infection is from bacteria and viruses, and they can be rather painful to endure. When the Eustachian tubes within the ears become blocked due to congestion from a virus or bacteria, a build-up of fluid will begin to form within the inner ear. The result is the discomfort and pain associated with an inner ear infection. While a person of any age group can get a middle ear infection, it happens most frequently in children or infants. Most people are not aware that there are two different kinds of middle ear infections and they are as follows:
- Acute Otitis Media – This type of middle ear infection often occurs when a person has contracted an upper respiratory infection that is viral. Such illnesses would include the flu and the common fold.
- Chronic Otitis Media – This type of middle ear infection is one that continues to be a problem for the sufferer. This infection usually occurs from a ruptured eardrum that has not healed properly or following issues with acute otitis media.
Symptoms of a Middle Ear Infection to Watch For
Every person does not always experience the same symptoms when they have a middle ear infection, and each type can also cause different symptoms. Below is a list of the most common symptoms that are associated with a middle ear infection.
- Loss of hearing
- Feeling the sensation that the ear is full
- Tremendous discomfort and pain
- A feeling of relief after blood and pus has drained from the ear’s canal. This signifies that a ruptured eardrum has occurred
- Parents of small children and infants will usually notice them rubbing or tugging at their ears
- Small children and infants will eat and sleep poorly, and they will be fussy and irritable
There are also serious symptoms that can occur and are warning signs of a life-threatening situation. If any of the symptoms below are noticed, immediate medical attention should be sought.
- A rash of small spots that appear reddish-purple in color
- Behavior changes that are sudden like delirium, confusion, delusions, lethargy, or hallucinations
- A decrease in alertness, fainting, or unresponsiveness
Risk Factors That Can Lead to Middle Ear Infections
Aside from bacteria and viruses being able to cause middle ear infections, there are also some risk factors that can make a person’s chances be much higher of acquiring this type of infection. These risk factors include the following:
- When bottles are used for feeding infants instead of breastfeeding
- When there are middle ear infections in a person’s family history
- When a person travels to other altitudes or climates
- When a person lives in climates that are cold
- When a person smokes or children are exposed to second hand smoke
- When there is a perforation in the eardrum
- When upper respiratory infections occur, recent sicknesses, or problems with sinusitis
Treatment Options Available for a Middle Ear Infection
The specific treatment plan a physician uses will depend a great deal on the kind of middle ear infection the patient has. Below are common forms of treatment options that are often used:
- Physicians instruct the patient to consume larger amounts of fluid.
- Pain and fever are often treated with acetaminophen.
- Inflammation of the ear is usually treated with corticosteroids.
- Antibiotics are normally given to fight against the bacteria causing the infection.
- Surgical procedures for placing tubes in the ears are often required. Repairing and removing tissue that is infected is also sometimes needed.