Are you or a loved one frustrated by an earache? This common condition can cause constant or intermittent pain in one or both ears that may make it difficult to hear, sleep, or concentrate.
Although most people think of ear infections when they hear the word earache, ear pain can stem from many different causes. So how can you tell when an earache is serious and warrants a trip to the doctor?
At Wasatch Peak Family Practice & Oceans Contours in Layton, Utah, our providers specialize in evaluating earaches to diagnose the cause and get you the treatment you need. We also want you to understand the signs that it’s time to seek medical help.
Keep reading to learn more about earaches and the signs your ear pain could be serious.
All about earaches
The term “earache” describes pain in one or both ears. This pain varies among people and among earaches, and could be burning, sharp, or dull. It might also be described as a feeling of pressure. The pain may be ongoing, or it might come and go.
Earaches can have many causes, from a buildup of earwax to wearing headphones to changes in air pressure to cleaning your ear too vigorously to arthritis of the jaw. Most of the time, however, earaches are associated with one of the following conditions:
- Fluid trapped in the ear tubes (middle ear infection)
- Upper respiratory infection or illness or sinus infections (blockage in the Eustachian tubes)
- Swimmer’s ear (outer ear infection)
In rare cases, an earache could be caused by a serious health issue, like a tumor or bacterial infection (cellulitis). You may also develop an earache after a blow to the ear or if you have an infected tooth.
Seeking treatment for earaches
Most of the time, minor earaches resolve at home with a little self-care. If you or a loved one experiences pain in the ear(s), try home remedies, such as:
- Sitting upright or keeping the head elevated at night
- Keeping the ear dry
- Over-the-counter medicines for minor pain/discomfort
- Using cold packs or cool cloths to reduce pain
- Chewing gum (for air pressure-related pain)
If your symptoms don’t resolve after a few days, it’s time to seek medical help. Your Wasatch Peak Family Practice & Oceans Contours provider examines your ears and evaluates any related symptoms to create a personalized treatment plan for your earache.
Signs an earache is serious
Severe pain and other symptoms could indicate your earache is a sign of something more serious. If you have any of the following symptoms, schedule an appointment with your provider right away or head to urgent care or the nearest emergency room:
- Intense pain
- Ear pain with fever
- Ear pain with a sore throat
- Drainage from your ears (pus-like fluids, clear liquids, blood, etc.)
- Hearing loss
- Ear pain with dizziness
- Swelling around the ear
- Drooping facial muscles with ear pain
- Ear pain with a rash
For more information about earaches or to set up an evaluation, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at Wasatch Peak Family Practice & Oceans Contours.