Ear Discharge

Causes and Symptoms

Any discharge from the ear should be a reason to visit your Doctor. The commonest causes are ear infection either due to the outer or middle ear causation and are usually associated with pain in the ear as well as the presence of a perforation of the ear drum depending on the exact cause. Copious clear discharge could be fluid arising from the brain compartment and is seen following severe head injury. It is occasionally a complication of ear or brain surgery.

Ear discharge due to an outer ear infection

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    Hearing tests are also required in order to determine the possibility of hearing loss as a consequence of the infection.

    It is not unusual for episodes of ear discharge to come and go and can be made worse for example after allowing water to get into the ear.


    Management of this symptom is to determine the cause and to treat with medications which usually involves both oral and topical treatment. Removal of debris from the ear canal is important as this allows examination of the ear more thoroughly especially using a microscope.

    In rare instances imaging of the ear is required with either CT or MRI particularly in the presence of the condition mentioned above-called cholesteatoma. Cholesteatoma is a condition that invariably requires surgical management in order to prevent any deeper erosion into the middle ear or indeed into the brain compartment. Occasionally the ear discharge can be bloodstained and this usually implies an acute infection of the ear and is often associated with a polyp formation.

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