Having fluid draining from your ear is certainly not something people are accustomed to experiencing. Medically this drainage is known as otorrhea, and it has many potential causes. In order to diagnose the cause of the drainage, it is important to know how long it has been happening, how severe it is, and exactly under what circumstances it began. Let’s take a look at some of the more common causes of fluid draining from your ear.
Otitis externa, known more commonly as swimmer’s ear, is a frequent cause of ear drainage. Swimmer’s ear usually causes a yellow, sticky, and very foul smelling discharge. Otitis externa is often associated with pain, redness, and even swelling of the external ear. Movement of the jaw or external ear is often quite tender and painful. Fever is seen frequently with otitis externa.
Another type of ear infection, otitis media, involves an infection of the inner ear. Otitis media is capable of rupturing the tympanic membrane. The tympanic membrane is a thin and delicate structure which conducts sound into the inner structures of your ear. Otitis media will often cause intermittent amounts of foul-smelling discharge from the ear. Some level of hearing loss, pain, nausea, and dizziness are seen frequently as well.
Trauma to the ear or the side of the head can cause drainage from the ear. This often causes the drainage to contain some blood. Blows to the side of the head, or directly to the year are frequent causes of trauma.
People who suffer from allergies will often experienced drainage from their ear. This drainage is typically accompanied by other symptoms of allergies such as nasal congestion, and itchy watery eyes.
There is an infection known as mastoiditis which is a common cause of drainage from the ear. Mastoiditis will cause a low-grade fever and a dull aching just behind the ear. Yellow discharge is frequently seen during this infection. Also, the skin behind the ear will often become red and inflamed. This can cause the skin around the ear to put tension on the cartilage of the ear, causing tremendous discomfort. Some amount of hearing loss is seen frequently with mastoiditis.
Some causes of drainage from the ear are related to the skin and not the ear itself. Dermatitis in and around the skin of the external ear can cause drainage on occasion. Contact dermatitis, such as what is seen when people have allergies to metal, is frequently seen in people who wear earrings containing metal that they are allergic to. Clear watery drainage along with swelling and redness of the external ear canal is a sign of dermatitis.
Of course, no list would be complete without mentioning some of the more rare causes of drainage from the ear. There are certain cancers and tumors which are capable of producing ear drainage. These cancers can either be benign, meaning that they have no potential to spread to other parts of the body, or they can be malignant. Malignant tumors have the potential to become quite dangerous. Either benign or malignant tumors can produce some amount of drainage from the ear. This drainage can often contain blood, and will typically present with pain and hearing loss as well. Please bear in mind that of all the causes listed in this article, cancer is one of the least likely causes of ear drainage.
Remember that this list is not intended to be a complete differential for all causes of drainage from the ear. Rather, it is meant to be a guideline and summary. If you are experiencing drainage from your ear which is becoming bothersome, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. In order to properly determine what the cause of your problem may be, your doctor will need to do a comprehensive interview and examination.