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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Continuous outer ear infection

10/27/2008

Question:

I am a 58 year old, female. For the past two years I have had an ear infection that encompasses the immediate ear canal just inside the ear opening, outer ear canal, the front and back of the ear and the scalp just behind the ear. On the upper back of both ears, there is a yellowish/orange, clear, oily discharge that seems to ooze out of the ear tissue and takes on a obnoxious odor. Beads of this discharge will ooze out and will crust and can be flaked off when it drys. It will occasionally itch but not normally. I also experience occasional itching just inside the ear canal which I can control with isopropyl rubbing alchol. Addionally, just at the ear canal opening, there is skin scaling (or discharge?). My dermatologist has prescribed Flucinolone Acetonide which keeps it under control but is not curing it. I also use isopropyl rubbing alcohol in an attempt to alleviate the problem. Do you know of a medical term for this condition? Is there a way to cure it rather than masking it?

Answer:

You sound like you have a dermatitis. It may be autoimmune in nature. I would recommend seeing an ear specialist (otologist). An audiogram (hearing test) may be helpful. You may need further testing as well (such as a CT scan). I agree with your dermatologist's plan for using steroids in the mean time.

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Response by:

Ravi N Samy, MD, FACS Ravi N Samy, MD, FACS
Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Skull Base Surgery Fellowship, Director of Adults Cochlear Implantation Program
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati