Aural polyps are noncancerous, fleshy growths in the outer ear canal or on the eardrum.
What is going on in the body?
Polyps usually form from constant irritation of the ear canal or eardrum. External ear infections, called chronic otitis externa, are the most common cause of this irritation.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Infection is the most common cause of aural polyps. A benign ear growth such as a cholesteatoma, also considered to be a type of infected ear cyst, can show up as a polyp. Polyps most often form in an ear canal that is abnormal in some way, or as a reaction to a tube placed in the eardrum. Necrotizing externa otitis, a bone infection within the ear canal, can also cause polyps. If the infection spreads, it can cause brain abscess, facial paralysis, deafness, meningitis, and bone infection of the base of the skull.
What can be done to prevent the condition?
Prompt treatment of external ear infections can help to prevent aural polyps.
How is the condition diagnosed?
An aural polyp is found by ear examination. There is usually pus if the primary cause is infection.
Long Term Effects
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Polyps in the ear canal may grow, bleed, and affect hearing. Cholesteatomas, or infected ear cysts, can spread and damage the inner and middle ears. Noncancerous growths may increase the person's risk for chronic otitis externa and hearing impairment. Malignant otitis externa is a benign or noncancerous but more aggressive type of infection that will continue to spread unless treated. This infection is more commonly seen in diabetics and in persons with altered immune function.
What are the risks to others?
Because aural polyps are not contagious, there is no risk to others.
What are the treatments for the condition?
Aural polyps are generally treated with topical steroid creams and antibiotic eardrops. For long-term or repeat infections, steroid creams and white table vinegar may be used. The healthcare professional may prescribe antifungal drops and creams for a fungal infection. Ear tubes may need to be removed if drops are not effective in getting rid of the polyps.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Side effects are specific to the medicines being used but may include:
- allergic reaction
- thickening of the ear canal skin
Medicine should be stopped if symptoms occur. Surgery can be complicated by infection, bleeding, or an allergic reaction to the anesthetic.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
The infection and the polyp generally resolve with therapy and have no long-term effects. If chronic otitis externa develops, maintenance therapy may be necessary. This could include steroid drops, vinegar washes, or antifungal products. If a tube had to be removed because of a polyp and ear infection recurs, a new tube made of a different substance may be needed.
How is the condition monitored?
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.