Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Swimmer's ear, or external otitis, is typically a bacterial infection of
the skin of the outer ear canal.
Swimmer's ear can occur in both acute and chronic
Excessive water exposure and frequent instrumentation
(usually with cotton swabs) of the ear canal are important causative
Itchy ears, a feeling of fullness, swelling, drainage,
and pain are early symptoms.
Antibiotic ear drops and avoidance of water are
frequently necessary for treatment.
Proper ear care can avoid most infections.
What is "swimmer's ear" or acute external otitis?
External otitis or "swimmer's ear" is an infection of the skin covering the outer ear and ear canal. Acute external otitis is commonly a bacterial infection caused by streptococcus, staphylococcus, or pseudomonas types of bacteria. The swimmer's ear infection is usually caused by excessive water exposure
from swimming, diving, surfing, kayaking, or other water sports. When water collects in the ear canal (frequently trapped by wax), the skin
can become soggy and serve as an inviting area for bacteria to grow. Cuts or abrasions in the lining of the ear canal (for example, from cotton swab injury) can also predispose to bacterial infection of the ear canal.
The first symptom of infection is that the ear will feel full, and it may
itch. Next, the ear canal will swell, and ear drainage will follow. At this stage the ear will be very painful, especially with movement of the outside portion of the ear. The ear canal can swell shut, and the side of the face can become swollen. Finally, the
lymph nodes (glands) of the
neck may enlarge, making it difficult or painful to open the jaw. People with
swimmer's ear may experience some temporary hearing loss in the affected ear.
Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR on 5/29/2013
Pain in the ear can occur because of conditions within the ear, the ear canal, or affecting the visible portion of the ear (the pinna). Acute middle ear infection, medically called acute otitis media, is inflammation of the middle ear and is the most frequent diagnosis in sick children in the U.S. The eustachian tube is shorter in children than adults which allows easy entry of bacteria and viruses into the middle ear, resulting in acute otitis media.
Infection of the ear canal (otitis externa) is also called swimmer's ear. Otitis externa is typically caused by bacterial infection.
Earache can also be caused by pain and inflammation of the outer portion of the ear (the pinna).
A child with a draining ear should not fly (or swim).