Foreign Object in the Ear

Close look on malignant otitis externa

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Otitis externa is a prevalent type of ear infection which develops in the inner ear. In some instances, it can even spread to the exterior ear and adjacent tissue including the bones of the face and jaw which is called as malignant otitis externa.

Bacteria specifically Pseudomonas aeruginosa is usually the culprit for malignant otitis externa. A high percentage of individuals who have diabetes develop this infection. If not treated, it can be a dangerous condition.

What are the causes?

In most cases, the condition develops once an individual has other health issues or currently under treatment that causes the immune system to weaken such as the following:

  • HIV
  • Diabetes
  • Chemotherapy treatment
  • AIDS

If an individual has a compromised immune system along with aggressive bacteria in the ear canal, the body has a hard time dealing with the infection. In case the bacteria trigger an infection, it can impair the ear canal tissue and the bones in the base of the skull. If the condition is not properly treated, it can spread to the cranial nerves, brain and other parts of the body.

Indications of malignant otitis externa

The indications of malignant otitis externa are readily distinguishable such as the following:

  • Continuous and foul-smelling yellowish or greenish drainage from the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Ear pain that becomes worse when the head is moved
  • Fever
  • Persistent itchiness in the ear canal
  • Weakness of the facial muscles
  • Difficulty swallowing
    Malignant otitis externa
    Ear pain that becomes worse when the head is moved
  • Laryngitis or loss of voice

Once any of these symptoms are present, a doctor should be consulted right away. Immediate treatment can prevent the spread of the infection as well as minimize the risk for other health complications.



The treatment for malignant otitis externa usually involves antibiotics. Remember that the condition is difficult to treat. The individual is usually under antibiotics for a number of months. In severe cases, antibiotics must be given intravenously. The treatment must be continued until the tests reveal that the infection has completely cleared up.

Surgical intervention

Surgery might be an option if there is significant damage to the tissue. This involves the removal of the damaged tissue and usually performed after the infection has cleared up.

Preventive measures

One way to prevent malignant otitis externa is to manage the infection until it is completely treated. This involves strictly following the instructions given by the doctor and completing the prescribed course of antibiotics.

Additionally, if an individual has a weakened immune system, it is vital to protect his/her health. Among those who have diabetes, it requires proper control of the blood sugar levels. For those who have HIV, it is important to stick with the regimen of medications to prevent the propagation of the virus in the body. Remember that protecting the health is vital in boosting the immune system as well as preventing the start of an infection.

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