Otitis Media, also known as an ear infection, is inflammation of the middle ear caused by a bacterial or viral infection. There are two types of otitis media: acute otitis media and otitis media with effusion. Acute otitis media is associated with fluid build up in the middle ear causing fever, pain, and fluid drainage from the ear. These symptoms can last up to a few weeks. Otitis media with effusion occurs after the initial infection is gone but fluid continues to build up in the middle ear. If an infection is severe enough and not treated appropriately, there is risk for additional complications. These include ruptured eardrum, permanent hearing loss and spread of the infection to the bones of the ear, brain or spinal fluid.
Otitis media is most often present in young children and seen more commonly during the fall and winter months. To diagnose an ear infection, doctors will use a lighted tool called an otoscope to look in the ear for signs of an ear infection, such as redness and a buildup of fluid. They may also preform a test called tympanometry to see how well the eardrum is working. Many ear infections resolve without treatment. If you or your child has been diagnosed with otitis media, talk with a physician to discuss the most current treatment options.