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Infectious Myringitis

Alternate Names

  • acute myringitis
  • Middle ear

Definition

Infectious myringitis is an infection of the eardrum. The eardrum is a thin membrane that separates the outer ear from the middle ear.

What is going on in the body?

Infectious myringitis is an infection of the eardrum that usually follows a bacterial or viral ear infection. Vesicles, or small fluid-filled lesions, develop on the eardrum. The infection interferes with the normal function of the eardrum.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

Myringitis is generally caused by an infection with bacteria or a virus. Sometimes, the infection starts in the eardrum. Most of the time, however, myringitis follows an infection in another part of the ear. Acute otitis media or swimmer's ear (otitis externa) can lead to secondary myringitis. Upper respiratory infections, such as the flu, sinusitis or pneumonia can predispose an individual to ear infections.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the disease?

Some helpful measures to reduce the risk of myringitis include:
  • avoiding prolonged immersion of the ear in water, such as a pool or hot tub
  • immunizing children and adults with flu and pneumonia vaccines as recommended
  • staying away from individuals with upper respiratory infections
  • washing hands often

Diagnosed

How is the disease diagnosed?

Diagnosis of myringitis begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare professional will use an otoscope, or lighted instrument, to look at the person's eardrum.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the disease?

Most cases of myringitis go away without any long-term effects. In some cases, however, scarring or rupture of the eardrum can occur, which can affect hearing.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Some causes of myringitis are contagious and can be passed to others.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the disease?

Treatment of infectious myringitis may include:
  • antibiotics
  • antibiotics together with steroid ear drops
  • ear drops that provide local anesthesia
  • over-the-counter or prescription pain medicine given by mouth
  • rupturing the vesicles on the eardrum with a myringotomy knife

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Antibiotics and other medicines may cause allergic reactions, stomach upset, or rash.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the disease?

In most cases, the eardrum returns to normal after successful treatment.

Monitor

How is the disease monitored?

If the pain does not resolve promptly, medical attention is needed. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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