Eczema can affect any part of the body, and many people experience eczema in the ears at some point. Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that typically causes dry skin and irritation. With ear eczema, the cause may be temporary, such as an ear infection, or the problem may be ongoing and treatment for ear eczema might involve managing the condition to avoid flare-ups. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of ear eczema, plus the various causes and possible treatments. We’ll also look at the relationship between ear eczema and ear wax, which can sometimes be linked.
What Is Eczema In Ears?
Ear eczema is a type of eczema that affects the ears, usually the outer ear, but it can also be present in the inner ear. Eczema damages the skin barrier, which is the glue that holds skin cells together. In the case of ear eczema, this presents itself as dry, flaky skin in or around the ear. There may be other symptoms associated with ear eczema too, depending on the severity of the individual condition.
Ear eczema can be a genetic condition, but can also be triggered by environmental factors, allergies, or excess moisture in the ear. Understanding the causes can help to determine the correct ear eczema treatment.
Symptoms Of Ear Eczema
Ear eczema can be found in one or both ears and symptoms may be mild and barely noticeable or can be severe and impact your quality of life. The most common symptoms of eczema in ears are:
Itching is perhaps the most commonly reported symptom of ear eczema and can vary from a minor irritation to something more persistent and painful. Scratching the itch can lead to more problems and cause infections.
Skin around the ears can appear red, swollen or inflamed, and may be painful to touch.
Dry Flaky Skin In Ears
Skin around the ear will look dry and probably very flaky. This is a typical symptom of eczema in ears, and although it can be tempting, it should not be picked. In more serious cases of ear eczema, the skin can become cracked and may start to bleed.
If the ear shows signs of weeping or there is a yellow discharge, there may be an infection present. This discharge may appear as hard and dry on the outside of the ear upon waking in the morning.
There are also some symptoms of eczema in ears that are less common but do happen in more serious cases. These include:
Tinnitus – Tinnitus is a condition where sufferers hear ringing in the ears despite there being no external source of the noise. Tinnitus can happen for a number of reasons, but damage in the inner ear, infections, and blocked ears can all contribute. Ear eczema can lead to damaged ear canals or infections due to itching, and fluid can cause blocked ears. This is why tinnitus is sometimes associated with eczema in ears.
Hearing Loss – If ear eczema does become infected, the subsequent build up of flaked skin, hair, and ear wax can block ears and result in temporary hearing loss.
Causes Of Ear Eczema
Some people may be more susceptible to any kind of eczema if their parents have it. With ear eczema, there are a few possible causes that your doctor or ear professional will be able to diagnose.
- Heat and sweating – sweat not only dries out the skin in people with eczema, but salts in the sweat can also irritate existing eczema. In addition, heat can aggravate ear eczema and is best avoided if you’re experiencing a flare-up.
- Infections – ear eczema can be a symptom of otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear as it’s also known. Common signs of otitis externa include dry, flaky, or cracked skin. If the ear infection is treated, then eczema in ears should subside.
- Allergic Contact Dermatitis – some types of eczema are caused by reactions to certain products like creams, jewellery, or pet fur. They can also be caused by food allergies. Any products that come into contact with ears could be the underlying cause of ear eczema.
- Environmental factors – changes in the weather, the temperature, or the environment can lead to eczema in ears. The ear is often exposed to the elements and factors like cold snaps or too much heat can produce dry and irritated skin around the ear
Treatment For Eczema In Ears
Treatment for eczema in ears comes in many forms, and to effectively manage and treat ear eczema, a combination of approaches may be needed. Symptoms of ear eczema, like itching and flakiness, will need to be reduced, but the underlying cause will need to be treated. It’s also important to prevent secondary infections. With this in mind, treatment for ear eczema will usually be one, or several, of the following:
A doctor or healthcare professional can prescribe steroid treatments such as ointments, ear drops, or cream. They reduce itching and inflammation and, if used as directed, can help to clear up ear eczema.
Ascertaining which products cause inflammation and dryness means they can be avoided in the future. This is a preventative treatment for eczema in ears, and usually involves eliminating certain substances and slowly reintroducing them one at a time to see which is the cause of ear eczema.
Using a specially formulated moisturiser for sensitive skin regularly can help maintain moisture in the skin, with this extra hydration helping to reduce bouts of ear eczema. When applying anything to the outer ear, be careful that it doesn’t go inside the ear and cause an infection.
A good initial treatment for eczema in ears is a cold compress. This can help to soothe any itching or pain.
Using nails or any kind of objects to scratch the itch that ear eczema causes could lead to secondary infections and make the problem worse.
If a secondary infection does occur, or if ear eczema is very severe, doctors may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medications.
Too much moisture in the ears can upset ear eczema, so it’s important to be careful when cleaning ears. However, using a mild cleanser for sensitive skin that’s recommended by a doctor or ear specialist will keep ears clean and reduce the likelihood of infection
Ear Wax And Eczema In Ears
Dry skin arising from eczema in ears can cause flakes to build up inside the ear. These flakes can get wrapped up in any ear wax, and the ear wax is then unable to secrete from the ear as it usually would. The knock on effect is a build-up of ear wax, which can result in pressure inside the ear and even hearing loss. Keeping ears clean and avoiding itching can reduce the likelihood of this happening. Managing any ear wax build-up will also help to minimise the potential side effects of ear eczema.
Microsuction From Ear Care Clinic
Microsuction is a safe and incredibly effective method of ear wax removal. It’s pain-free, safe to be performed in patients with ear eczema, and clears blocked wax that may be causing secondary problems or infections. Microsuction can even be done if there’s an ear infection present. A tiny microscope is used to check inside the ear to make sure that all debris is cleared and there is no downtime following the procedure.
To find out more about microsuction in London, please contact us or book an appointment at your local clinic in one of five London locations.