What Is Otitis Media?
Otitis Media is a general term referring to the inflammation (fluid and infection) of the middle ear. Acute otitis media refers to an active infection in the middle ear with an inflammed ear-drum - this is often associated with pain and fever. Otitis Media with Effusion (OME) or Glue Ear is the presence of fluid in the middle ear without pain and fever and this may last for several months. Other names of OME that you may hear about are Serous Otitis Media or Mucoid Otitis Media.
Acute Otitis Media
This is often caused by a bacterial infection of the middle ear. The eardrum may not be inflammed or reddened but the surrounding tissues are - some cases show a bulging or blistered eardrum. This often causes pain and discomfort. The fluid may consist mostly of pus. A layer, not unlike the scab off a wound, may form on the eardrum after an episode of acute otitis media. Sometimes a perforation occurs when the eardrum ruptures and pus may flow out of the ear canal - you should seek medical attention well before this happens.
How Is It Treated?
Your GP will prescribe a course of antibiotics to kill off any bacteria in the earcavity. Any pus or fluid will have to be drained or washed out - see our Glue Ear page on the use of grommets as drainage devices. It is important to seek medical care early to prevent loss of hearing! Chronic suppurative (long-term infection with pus) conditions can cause irreparable damage to the ear drums and permanent hearing loss.