Condition: Ear discharge (Otorrhoea)

Discharge that comes out from the ear, that has a foul smell, and is thick or watery.

Patients with ear pain

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What is Ear Discharge?

Even healthy ears will produce some earwax, however some ears will discharge more, with foul smelling, thick or watery discharge possible. This may be associated with pain but can be painless.

What is the
cause of Ear Discharge?

An infection of the ear canal may cause a painful discharge from an otherwise normal ear, a condition called Otitis externa. This most commonly occurs when people have been dipping in and out of a swimming pool on holiday but can happen at any time. The condition may settle with antibiotic ear drops, but removal of the debris from the ear is often necessary.

If the ear discharge recurs frequently, or is painless, there is often an underlying problem with the eardrum or ear canal. This may be a hole or retraction pocket , or trapped skin.

What treatment is available?

The first step in treating a discharging ear is generally to remove the debris and discharge under the microscope  to allow thorough assessment of the ear. Microsuction and the application of appropriate drops or cream to the ear may be all that is required. For some patients surgery will be recommended to correct an underlying problem (such as a perforation or cholesteatoma) and stop the issue from recurring.

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Jul 2024


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Condition overview
Ear discharge (Otorrhoea)

Ear discharge (Otorrhoea) Specialists

Our consultants, who are all either heads of service at London teaching hospitals, or have played major roles in clinical innovation, employ their collective expertise, knowledge and deep experience to deliver the best care possible. Each team is made up of some of the country’s most well-regarded experts in their sub-specialist fields.