Every now and then, most people experience an itchy sensation in their ears. Our ears are extremely sensitive parts of the body and they are prone to infection, leading to the irresistible urge to scratch them. Most of the time, this isn't an issue. But sometimes, itching in the ears can cause serious problems, damaging the ear canal. If you are experiencing this issue, here's a look at what might be causing your itch, and what can be done about it.
What Causes Itchy Ears?
Itching in the ears could have many causes. Anything that causes skin in the ears to become inflamed can lead to itching, from insect bites to fungal infections. In every case, it's important to find out what is causing the irritation, so that specialists can suggest appropriate treatments. For example, psoriasis is a common cause of ear irritation. Caused by an auto-immune response, psoriasis leads to the accumulation of excess skin cells near the surface. If skin builds up faster than it can be shed, this leads to scaling and itching, and the ear is commonly affected. Another familiar culprit is an outer ear infection (otitis externa). This could be caused by swimming in pools that appear dirty, hence the alternative name "swimmer's ear." However, it can develop when ear cells are damaged by things like earphone buds. Generally, earwax provides an effective defense against outer ear infections, but it too can be a cause of itchiness. If your body generates too much earwax, it can block the ear canal, leading to irritation. If it produces too little, the skin in the outer ear can become too dry, cracking and leading to chronic itching. Sometimes, itching in the ear can arise from an allergic reaction as well. This could be something as harmless as shampoo or medication for a different ear problem. In any case, it is essential to consult a medical specialist who can determine the root cause and make suggestions on how to respond. If left untreated, ear itching can cause damage. The more you itch, the more likely you are to irritate the ear canal, leading to long-term ear problems.
How to Treat Itchy Ears
The treatment prescribed for itchy ears will vary depending on what your specialist decides is the root cause, and there are a number of options available. If possible, doctors will try to prescribe ways to manage the condition at home so that the affected areas heal on their own. This may require some discipline on the part of patients. For instance, they may be required to wear shower caps to prevent inflamed areas from becoming moist; they may need to apply moisturizing ear drops; sometimes swabbing will be required to clean the ear, and it may be recommended that patients avoid swimming until the condition clears up. If the cause is determined to be an ear infection, the treatment will probably be different. In those cases, doctors will most likely prescribe antibiotic ear drops to tackle the pathogens causing the irritation. They may also recommend corticosteroid drops to alleviate swelling around the outer ear, or prescribe anti-fungal drops in some cases (or a combination of these medications). In cases where ear itching is thought to be the result of an allergy, patients may be tested for allergic factors, and doctors may recommend that they avoid certain products or activities such as swimming. If the problem is earwax buildup, a method called “ear syringing” may be recommended to unblock the ear canal. There are also some home remedies that are known to provide relief. They aren't a substitute for formal medical intervention in most cases, but hot compresses and even olive oil application are reported to help some patients manage their conditions. The main thing to remember is that ear itching is almost always manageable and curable, if you seek appropriate medical assistance in a timely fashion.
Ways to Prevent Itching in the Ears
Another key point to make about itchy ears is that the condition generally needs to be managed long-term if you want to prevent it from returning. If you suffer from dry skin or allergies, you can take measures to prevent the symptoms returning in the future. Your doctor can also recommend specific preventative measures. Protecting your ears from excess moisture is often a priority. You can do this by wearing shower caps and cotton wool balls when you bathe. Headbands are also available for swimmers who want to enjoy the benefits of exercise but need to keep their outer ears dry. For some patients, using shampoos or shower gels that are formulated for sensitive skin helps. If allergies are involved, antihistamine medications can be used. Often, patients also need to take extra care when using things like earphones or hearing aids: just being gentle when inserting buds can make a big difference. Many people also find that they need to use moisturizing creams or oils to ward off cracking and excessive dryness. - In some extreme cases, the use of steroid ear drops for a long period of time may be necessary. Most of the preventative measures regarding ear irritation are common sense and easy to implement, although they are more effective when formulated by a medical expert who knows your symptoms and condition.
Anyone who has experienced severe ear itching knows how bothersome such conditions can be. If you suffer from a worsening itch, or one that persists for longer than a week, it might be time to arrange a medical consultation. Your itch can be resolved quickly and your symptoms can be relieved, so don't delay your appointment. Take action and ensure that your ears return to full working order.