oa South African Family Practice - Otitis externa : review and clinical update : CPD article

Volume 53, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 2078-6190
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6204



Otitis externa can take an acute or a chronic form, with the acute form affecting four in 1 000 persons annually and the chronic form affecting 3-5% of the population. Acute disease commonly results from bacterial (90% of cases) or fungal (10% of cases) overgrowth in an ear canal subjected to excess moisture, or to local trauma. Chronic disease often is part of a more generalised dermatologic or allergic problem. Symptoms of early acute and most chronic disease include pruritus and local discomfort. If left untreated, acute disease can be followed by canal oedema, discharge, and pain, and eventually by extra-canal manifestations. Topical application of an acidifying solution is usually adequate in treating early disease. An antimicrobial containing ototopical is the preferred treatment for later-stage acute disease, and oral antibiotic therapy is reserved for advanced disease or those who are immunocompromised. Preventative measures reduce recurrences, and typically involve minimising ear canal moisture, trauma, or exposure to materials that incite local irritation or contact dermatitis.

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