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Ask Dr. Sophie :: Medicine & Neurolog...
Dr. Sophie :: Medicine & Neurology
Dr. Sophie :: Medicine & Neurology, Doctor
Category: Medical
Satisfied Customers: 2951
Experience:  Neurologist :: Clinical Neurophysiologist :: University of California.
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What could clear fluid draining from ear be?

Resolved Question:

Have had clear, water like fluid draining from my ear in the last few days, especially at night. Cleaned with hydrogen peroxide and stopped due to excessive drying and some scabbing. Lot of colds recently in workplace though this is all I have noticed. Is there any home or over the counter remedy to try for a few days or a week to try and clear this up?

Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Medical
Expert:  Dr. Sophie :: Medicine & Neurology replied 7 years ago.
Have you noticed if it has an odor or is it clear, colorless and odorless like water?
Do you shower in AM, PM or both?
Is your hearing OK?
Any ear pain?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
No noticeable strong odor,clearish fluid but not as clear as water and more viscous then water, no pain or hearing problem, but can feel fluid as though a smalll pool in ear. Shower every morning, plus occasionally pm.Seems to accumulate while sleeping at night, less during daytime.This came on suddenly and has been noticeable 3-4 days.
Expert:  Dr. Sophie :: Medicine & Neurology replied 7 years ago.
Fluid leak from an ear or ears is called otorrhea. Typically, it is caused by infection or inflammation of the middle ear or external auditory canal - the place where earwax accumulates.

Infection of the middle ear (the space behind your eardrum normally filled with air which connects to the back of your throat via Eustachian tube), also known as otitis media causes ear pain, feeling of fullness, decreased hearing and if there is drainage it may be pusy, and usually means ear drum has been compromised. These infections are common in children but occasionally may happen in adults.

Otitis externa AKA swimmer's ear is a problem in the ear canal and is typically painful and sometimes itchy. It can happen due to infection (ex. too vigorous cotton swab cleaning breaks the lining and allows bacteria to enter), inflammation such as from excessive moisture trapped by ear wax or wearing headphones. Ear discharge can be clear, white or yellow or even sometimes bloody depending on an underlying cause.

Your clear watery drainage may conceivably be caused by either of these conditions but clear watery - more viscous than water as you described - discharge is alway suspicious for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak. While most often it is caused by trauma, it may be caused by masses or tumors, infection, or by a mass next to what is called "tegmen bone defect" which can get worse with age. The latter is the most common cause of spontaneous CSF leak in adults.

What I am trying to stress that even though your symptoms may be due to a relatively benign condition it is important to rule out more serious etiology (cause). It has already been a few days and I would probably not wait much longer especially if the drainage keeps coming. Your doctor should refer you to an ENT doc to make sure the fluid leaking from your ear is not CSF. You will likely need a CT scan to diagnose the problem.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Thanks for your answer. Since I wrote, drainge has pretty much abated.The remaining issue is the crustiness left behind on and in ear, which is still oozing a bit of fluid. Is there a topical creme or suggested cleaning regeime to aid in healing this without further aggravating it. Water, soap and water, etc

Expert:  Dr. Sophie :: Medicine & Neurology replied 7 years ago.

One caveat before I make an over-the-counter remedy recommendation: it would be best if your doctor determined if your eardrum is intact before you put anything into your ear canal. If you decide to see your doc, she or he may prescribe Cortisporin Otic suspension drops which is a combination of antibiotics and cortisone.

As far as "home" remedies: 2.75% boric acid solution or Burow's solution (aluminum acetate) can be used as an antimicrobial. There are no OTC steroid drops you can put in your ear, but you can use 0.5% hydrocortisone cream on the external part to minimize inflammation.

I would suggest you avoid shower or any other type of water (if you swim) getting into your ear while the healing process continues. You can use cotton balls to protect your ears.

Hydrogen peroxide is a good remedy to use occasionally to soften the earwax but it needs to be diluted because it can can cause irritation such as in your case.

If the heavier discharge comes back or this does not resolve soon, you should definitely see your doctor.

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