All you need to know about Ear Eczema
Eczema can appear on any part of your body, including the inside of the ear or outside the ear canal. Ear eczema can be not only very irritating, but can also be a painful condition. Ear eczema may range from slight dryness of the visible, projecting part of the ear (pinna), infection of the internal and external parts of the ear to significant skin loss and soreness.
Ear eczema can attack the whole ear including your ear lobes, the ear opening (meatus), conchal bowl (the depressed part of the pinna), the ear canal (also referred to as the external auditory canal) as well as the eardrum itself (tympanic membrane). The ear-folds, the area where the ear meets the face, as well as the back of the ears, are also common spots for eczema.
Otitis externa, which is a condition that results in the inflammation of the ear, has many possible causes of which it can be given rise from eczema. It is highly advisable to focus on the prevention and proper management of otitis externa. This is because if left untreated, eczema or any other type of infection in this area can worsen and spread outwards to the external skin as well as other parts of the skin.
What are the various types of eczema?
Many types of eczema are known to affect the ear including:
- Atopic eczema: In this type of ear eczema, your ear and the skin behind the ear become affected. Just like other areas of the affected skin in your body, the eczematous skin will become red, dry, and very itchy. What’s more, the affected area can be easily susceptible to infection, especially when scratched and the skin becomes broken. In those having atopic eczema, the common area which gets affected is usually the junction between the face and the ear lobe. Eczema in this part usually results in extremely painful cracks in your skin, and this makes your skin to become susceptible to infection. In some instances, eczema can affect the whole of your pinna and track down your ear canal.
- Asteatotic eczema: This is more prevalent among older people. Your external ear is usually vulnerable to variations in climate, and this may occasionally result in dry, scaly and itchy skin and this causes asteatotic eczema. Some of the factors that are known to aggravate this type of eczema include over-washing, central heating, windy or cold weather, decreased indoor humidity levels and air conditioning.
- Dermatitis (Seborrhoeic Eczema): This usually affects parts of the body where there are sebaceous glands, such as your scalp, face, trunk, and the ears. Mild dermatitis usually causes redness as well as scaling at the external ear canal. However, severe forms of dermatitis usually cause redness and crusty cracks to develop in the ear folds, extending to the external ear. It will also affect the neck and scalp.
- Contact dermatitis: The external ear is usually affected by both allergic and irritant contact dermatitis. Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when the surface of your skin is irritated by a substance that makes the skin to become red, dry and itchy. Typical examples of substances that can potentially cause irritant contact dermatitis in both the external and internal ear include hair gels, shampoos, perm solution, hair spray, perfume and hair colorants. On the other hand, allergic contact dermatitis may occur as a result of your body reacting to a particular substance to which you are allergic.
- Common items that are known to cause allergic contact dermatitis around and inside the ears include topical medicaments (gels, creams, and ointments), toiletries and cosmetic (such as soap, perfumes, and makeups), allergens transferred to the ears through the fingers (such as nail varnish and plant resin from poison ivy, oak), objects used to scratch or clean the ear, metal, rubber and plastic ear appliances (such as spectacles, hearing aids, head, and earphones, earplugs and iPod/mobile phone receivers), studs and earrings, especially those that contain nickel. Also, products that are used for scalp or hair such as conditioner, shampoo, gels, hairspray, hairpins, grips, hair colorants, bathing caps, hairnets and perm solution can trigger allergic contact dermatitis.
Can getting an ear piercing cause ear eczema?
Although ear piercing doesn’t trigger ear eczema, certain problems can occur as a result of wearing earrings or studs. Nickel allergy is extremely common and the likelihood of this happening is significantly increased if you have pierced your ears and you put on anything made even partially from nickel.
It is highly recommended that if you have a nickel allergy, you should only put on hypo-allergic jewelry or jewelry that features 18-carat gold, platinum, pure sterling silver or high-quality stainless steel. In this regard, you should avoid anything that features rolled gold, foreign silver, gold plating or white gold.
Pierced ears are usually prone to infection, especially just after piercing. you should have an experienced, qualified and reputable ear-piercing expert pierce your ears. What’s more, you should regularly wash them using a mild antiseptic solution until they stop weeping.
What options do I have to treat ear eczema?
Generally, the adopted eczema treatment will depend on the type and cause of eczema. Your doctor will diagnose your condition before recommending the most appropriate type of treatment.
For asteatotic, seborrheic or atopic eczema, you should apply a medical emollient regularly on the affected area. Your doctor may recommend and prescribe a topical steroid on sore areas behind your ears, and in their folds.
You should apply the prescribed topical treatments to the affected area using a cotton bud. Use it to gently paint the ointment or cream around the ear pinna and the ear meatus (the opening to the ear canal). Don’t push the cotton bud further into your ear.
If eczema has affected the inside of your ear canal, your doctor will prescribe steroid drops.
Can ear eczema cause my ears to be infected?
In some instances, the skin affected by dermatitis and eczema can become infected by bacteria. This is usually common if the skin surface is broken as a result of either scratching or dryness. This is the same for other areas of the skin affected by eczema infections.
Infected ear eczema can potentially aggravate the buildup of wax, hair as well as skin scales in the ear canal. This, in turn, will lead to ear blockage, causing temporary deafness. Ear infections and infected eczema can occur when your ears become damp for an extended period. For example, if you swim for a long period and your ears remain wet for a long period after swimming, the likelihood of your ears becoming infected becomes relatively higher. What’s more pressure from earpieces and hearing aids can encourage ear infection and this implies that you must ensure they comfortably fit into your ears.
How do I know if my ear eczema has led to an ear infection?
Common signs and symptoms of an infection inside your ear could include, itching, earache, weeping, redness, dirty-colored discharge (commonly green or yellow), swelling and unpleasant smell. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, you are encouraged to schedule an appointment with your doctor. However, it is imperative to note that a clear ear discharge is normal if you have eczema, particularly with weepy eczema (active eczema.)
What should I do if my ear eczema has led to an ear infection?
If you feel that your eczema is infected, kindly speak to your doctor. Depending on your situation, he might prescribe a preparation containing a mixture of topical and antibiotic steroids for bacterial infections. He may also prescribe a mixture of topical and antifungal steroid for fungal infections. As always, you should complete the prescribed course of treatment.
What else should I expect during the consultation with my doctor?
The buildup of earwax coupled with the flaky skin resulting from the patches of eczema can potentially produce lots of debris inside the ear canal. This debris can easily cause ear infection, especially if the water is present. This means that the prevention of ear infection is very important.
Aural toilet refers to the cleaning of the insides of your ear and this type of treatment is usually recommended for the removal of the debris as well as the scale that can collect in your ear canal. The procedure is usually conducted under a microscope and involves the use of microsuction, an electric suction system. The routine aural toilet is sometimes recommended at least once or twice a year to prevent eczema debris and wax buildup.
Doctor’s tips for ear-cleaning and ear care
There are a few tips you can use to keep your ear from infection. You can use either water or an emollient wash to gently wash and clean your external ear. You may also use a wet cotton bud very gently to remove any debris in the bowl area of your ear. However, you shouldn’t insert it into your ear canal. You should never wash further into your ears because you can easily damage the skin lining of the ear canal.
After washing, you should thoroughly dry your ears using a warm hairdryer. You should avoid scratching the inside of your ears, especially with hair grips or matches. If you didn’t know, such objects can easily damage your eardrum or ear canal skin and cause an allergic reaction, especially after regular use.
The use of ear candles is not recommended because there is no clinical evidence that suggests that they are effective. They can also cause ear damage.
And if you are to go swimming, always use earplugs. You can buy customized ear molds that fit your ears. Earmolds are usually designed and fitted at hearing-aid clinics. You can also consider using an emollient cream, which can be used to treat skin dryness around and in the entrance to the ear canals. You may also use unfragranced baby oil (petroleum oil) or sunflower oil to soften earwax. However, the use of water and earwax softener products purchased from chemists is not recommended because they are likely to cause the buildup of debris, leading to increased inflammation and irritation.
Ear eczema can be an intimidating and equally irritating condition. And because it is nearly impossible to examine the internal ear without a piece of medical equipment, it is usually difficult to tell what’s going on inside the ears, especially in the case of young kids.
If you realize that something is wrong with your ears, you should always seek professional advice soon as possible. And through the help of specialized equipment, your doctor will examine your ear to identify the primary cause of your ear problem. Depending on your individual situation, one of the many available treatments for ear and eczema infections may be recommended.
How do I get rid of eczema in my ears?
Unfortunately, Eczema is a relapsing condition but good news is that good control of the condition can be gained with the right treatment.
The treatment will depend on the type of eczema you may be suffering from as well as the cause of that particular type of eczema. For atopic, seborrheic and asteatotic eczema, you might be prescribed a medical emollient to be applied on the affected area. Your doctor may also prescribe a topical steroid on sore areas behind your ears as well as in their folds. And if you have seborrheic dermatitis, your doctor may prescribe steroid combined with an antifungal.
How do I make my ears stop itching?
Itching by itself without proven evidence of eczema or infection may be treated using a mild steroid ear drop. However, if you suspect that you may be having eczema, you should contact your doctor to conduct eczema diagnosis. If it turns out that you are indeed suffering from eczema, your doctor will recommend the appropriate treatment based on the type of eczema you are having.
Why do my ears itch and feel wet inside?
Wet ears typically mean disease, probably infected eczema. An infection can create pus, so this might be the reason why your ears feel damp inside. Ear infections and infected eczema can occur when your ears become wet for a long period. Also, pressure from earpieces and hearing aids can create ear infection. If your ears are itchy and damp, you should inform your doctor to confirm if you are indeed suffering from infected ear eczema.
How dangerous is ear eczema?
Generally, ear eczema is not usually severe. Regardless, the skin dryness, as well as itchiness, can be extremely frustrating. What’s more, these symptoms can worsen if the affected individual continues to scratch the affected area. Eczema inside your ear will also make you prone to ear canal infections. Thankfully, with proper and adequate treatment, ear eczema will generally clear up without any long-term effect.
What causes itching in the ears?
Itching could be a potential sign of the beginning of an infection. Other common causes of ear itching are skin diseases such as eczema, contact dermatitis, and psoriasis. You can also have itchy ears if you are suffering from an allergy. This is why you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to help determine the reason why your ears are itchy.