Otomycosis - Ear Fungal Infection Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Otomycosis is an outer Ear Infection caused by fungus. The main symptom of this fungal Ear Infection is itching in the ear. The usual home treatments and remedies used in case of ear infection can go super wrong and worsen the condition in the case of Otomycosis.

Otomycosis causes
Aspergillus Niger (black-colored) or Candida (white-colored) fungi cause this infection. Most cases are because of Aspergillus Niger. The spores of Aspergillus Niger are present in the environment. When the water sits on wax in the ear, it creates a good environment for the fungus to grow.

Cotton buds for ear cleaning cause fungal ear infection

Using an ear bud or any other external object especially after a shower to clean ear canal can increase the risk. As the object can carry fungus and on top of that our skin in ear can be sensitive as it is wet and can easily get ruptured giving the fungus a VIP pass to infect the ear.

Otomycosis symptoms

The fungus grows and feeds on the wax when conditions are ideal for its growth, for example when your ear is wet, leading to an itchy ear.

After the completion of wax, fungus encroaches on the ear canal’s skin, which is when the patient starts experiencing pain in the ear.

The itching present before can worsen when fungus creeps onto the skin. It could even create perforation of the eardrums leading to deafness which could be permanent.

Otomycosis the fungal ear infection treatment

Itching in the ear indicates a fungal infection. Consult an ENT doctor and get the fungus cleaned. He will prescribe you anti-fungal eardrops.

As mentioned earlier, perforation of eardrums due to Otomycosis is avoidable by treating the ear with anti-fungal ear drops on time. Sometimes if not treated on time, the perforation is more damaged, and hearing loss can be permanent. The only resort in this situation is a major ear surgery.

So if we act on time and reach out to an ENT doctor, we can easily avoid the surgery.

Home treatment for fungal Ear Infection that can go wrong - Otomycosis
There are commonly 2 remedies used for in-home treatment for ear infections.

• oil as ear drops
• antibiotic ear drops

Oil for ear infection

Many assume that itching in the ear could be due to dryness of the skin in outer ear canal. However, the itching could be due to fungus also. When people use oil in case of a fungal ear infection, this oil will act as food for the fungus and helps it spread faster.

Antibiotic ear drops for itchy ears

The antibiotic eardrops kill the normal bacteria in the ear canal. Generally, these bacteria and fungi coexist and fight in our ears, controlling each other. Using antibiotic ear drops and killing the bacteria destroys this balance. This environment will be ideal for the fungus to multiply and reach the eardrum.

Spike of fungal ear infections during COVID-19

In the months of June, July, August, and September 2021 Dr. K. R. Meghanadh saw daily an average of 4 patients with external ear canal fungal infection called Otomycosis. He used to see around 30 patients per month before this spike.
Dr. K. R. Meghanadh said, “Due to the spike in these months, I wonder if COVID has any relation with Otomycosis. I observed that only a few were post-COVID, and the number is not significant enough to term this as a post-COVID complication, unlike Mucormycosis. I think this is because of the change in lifestyle due to the pandemic. I assume that the time spent in the house has increased and has given people some idle time, leading to increased ear buds usage. Ear-buds could be the reason behind this spike, some doctors say it could be because of the season change, but I have not seen such a massive spike in my career due to the change of season. The only difference here is COVID-19 and the changes it brought to our lifestyle. The spike is most probably due to our lifestyle changes.

Using an ear bud to clean the ear canal can increase the chance of fungal infection. When the skin inside the ear canal is wet, skin becomes delicate, and the use of an ear bud can easily damage the skin, making it susceptible to infection. Using an ear bud after a bath can multiply the chances.

With the COVID, people are scared to come for minor problems to the hospital and tend towards home remedies or self-medication. Not just a couple of them, but alarmingly many patients that came to me have used antibiotic ear drops as self-medication. These antibiotic eardrops kill the normal bacteria in the ear canal. Generally, these bacteria and fungi coexist and fight in our ears, controlling each other. Using antibiotic ear drops and killing the bacteria created a more convenient environment for the fungus to multiply. So, we must not self-medicate ourselves with antibiotic ear drops when we have irritation in our ear.”

The Takeaway from This Spike
The causes for the Otomycosis spike Dr. K. R. Meghanadh mentioned previously are his opinions and guesses. However, what we know for sure is that this is preventable and treatable without surgery. So, we have two crucial precautions, one for preventing the disease and the other for controlling the perforation and, therefore, a major surgery.
1. Do not use ear-buds inside the ear canal.
2. Do not self-medicate with antibiotic ear drops when itchy. Consult an ENT doctor, get the fungus cleaned and use anti-fungal ear drops.

An Article by
Dr. K. R. Meghanadh

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