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Otomycosis is a fungal infection of the ear. It is often painful, affects both ears and is more common in persons who swim frequently. It primarily affects the outer ear canal. This canal starts at your eardrum and continues to the outside of your skull. In some situations, it may also impact the middle ear. 

The infection is caused by the growth of fungus in the ear. This can lead to various symptoms and complications. Fungi cause around 10% of all outer ear canal infections. There are excellent treatments available, but you will need to see a doctor.

Causes and Risk Factors

This ear infection is caused by the growth of fungus in the ear. It can occur due to various reasons, including:

  • Exposure to water like swimming
  • Use of earplugs or hearing aids
  • Weakened immune system
  • Use of antibiotics and steroids

Several forms of fungus cause otomycosis. The most common are Aspergillus and Candida. ‌

·      Aspergillus is a widespread fungus that can be found anywhere, indoors or out. Every day, we breathe in Aspergillus spores with no difficulties. However, for certain people, it can result in health problems such as lung infections and allergic responses.

·      Candida is a form of yeast that thrives not only on your skin. They are also found inside your body, such as your mouth, throat, and stomach. Several species can cause candidiasis infections, including oral thrush.

Some risk factors that may increase your chances of getting an ear canal infection are:

·      Getting water into your ear while swimming.

·      Using hearing aids or earplugs, especially if they’re not properly cleaned.

·      Cleaning the ear with a cotton swab.

·      Introducing irritants such as hair spray or hair dye into your ear. 

·      People with skin disorders such as seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis.

·      Some people are more likely to get ear canal infections.

Symptoms of Otomycosis

Symptoms can vary but commonly include:

  • Itching in the ear
  • Ear discharge is often described as thick, yellowish, or white
  • A foul odor coming from the ear
  • Redness and swelling in the ear canal
  • Pain or discomfort in the ear
  • Loss or difficulty hearing

Diagnosing otomycosis

A physical exam and certain tests are used to establish the appropriate treatment for fungal ear infections. Healthcare providers investigate the ear canal with an otoscope, which is a magnification equipment. They also collect information on symptoms and medical history.

Otomycosis Treatment and Prevention

Treatment options involve the use of antifungal medications. These can be administered in forms like:

  • Eardrops: Antifungal eardrops treat fungal ear infections and reduce inflammation of the ear canal.
  • Oral medication: In some cases, oral antifungal medications may be prescribed, especially if the infection is severe.
  • Topical creams or ointments: These can be applied to the affected area to help reduce symptoms and promote healing.

Although it is not always possible to prevent a fungal ear infection, several home remedies may help to lower the risk of infection. These include:

·      Clean earplugs and/or earphones regularly.

·      Wearing earplugs when swimming or entering water.

·      Dry the ear with a hairdryer after showering, especially if water becomes caught in the ear canal.

·      Avoid rubbing and prodding within the ear canal to clean it.

Treatment for a fungal ear infection often takes 1 to 2 weeks. However, some people may develop reoccurring infections. In such instances, it is critical to take preventive measures and seek treatment from an ENT professional as soon as ear fungal infections emerge.