What are the subtypes of otitis externa (OE)?

Updated: Mar 09, 2020
  • Author: Ariel A Waitzman, MD, FRCSC; Chief Editor: Ravindhra G Elluru, MD, PhD  more...
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Answer

OE is a superficial infection of the skin in the EAC. It may be classified as follows:

  • Acute diffuse OE – This is the most common form of OE, typically seen in swimmers; it is characterized by rapid onset (generally within 48 hours) and symptoms of EAC inflammation (eg, otalgia, itching, or fullness, with or without hearing loss or jaw pain) as well as tenderness of the tragus or pinna or diffuse ear edema or erythema or both, with or without otorrhea, regional lymphadenitis, tympanic membrane erythema, or cellulitis of the pinna [9]
  • Acute localized OE – This condition, also known as furunculosis, is associated with infection of a hair follicle
  • Chronic OE – This is the same as acute diffuse OE but is of longer duration (>6 weeks)
  • Eczematous (eczematoid) OE – This encompasses various dermatologic conditions (eg,  atopic dermatitispsoriasissystemic lupus erythematosus, and eczema) that may infect the EAC and cause OE
  • Necrotizing (malignant) OE – This is an infection that extends into the deeper tissues adjacent to the EAC; it primarily occurs in adult patients who are immunocompromised (eg, as a result of diabetes mellitus or AIDS) and is rarely described in children; it may result in cases of cellulitis and osteomyelitis (see  CellulitisOsteomyelitis, and  Chronic Osteomyelitis Imaging)
  • Otomycosis - Infection of the ear canal secondary to fungus species such as  Candida or  Aspergillus

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