Draining From the Ear
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Reviewed By:

Eric A. Gantwerker, MD, MMSC

Eric A. Gantwerker, MD, MMSC (Otolaryngology (ENT))

Pediatric Otolaryngologist at Northwell Health and Associate Professor of Otolaryngology at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. He holds a Master of Medical Science (MMSc) in Medical Education with a special focus on educational technology, educational research, and game-based learning from Harvard Medical School and a Master of Science in Physiology and Biophysics from Georgetown University. He has a special interest in faculty development and has been a speaker or faculty at hundreds of local, national, and international courses and conferences. He is also an active blogger and podcaster for several organizations, including the Harvard Macy Institute (HMI), Harvard Medical School CME Online, and BackTable Innovations. He has been featured in the news and print for media outlets such as USA Today, Businesswire, The Washington Post, Nature Medicine, Fox News, and KevinMD. He was also the Vice President, Medical Director of a medical video game company, Level Ex from 2018 to 2023 that utilized game technology and psychology to create interactive experiences for healthcare professionals. | He is recognized as an expert on the implementation of educational technologies and gaming with a foundation in educational theory for health professions education. He was honored to be inducted as an Associate Member of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Academy of Master Surgeon Educators and as an Associate Fellow of the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE).

Rohini R, MD

Rohini R, MD (Otolaryngology (ENT))

Dr. Rohini R is an ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, with a Fellowship in Advanced Endoscopic Sinus and Skull Base Surgery and a Fellowship in Aesthetic Medicine and Lasers. Besides clinical practice and working with Ubie, she is actively training and mentoring medical students and residents. She has functioned in various work settings - teaching hospitals, private and free health centers, and worked with patients from all socioeconomic backgrounds due to her experience in free hospitals and volunteering in India and Singapore.

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Content updated on Apr 4, 2024

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  • Liquid draining from the ear

  • Fluid drainage from the ear

  • Pus drips from the ear

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About the Symptom

Otorrhea, or ear discharge, is any fluid that comes from the ear. It's usually due to an infection (swimmer's ear or otitis externa) but it can also be just moist wax. Sometimes bad middle ear infections (acute otitis media) can lead to eardrum rupture and drainage as well. Drainage, if chronic, can be indicative of a more serious condition, such as a skin cyst in the ear (cholesteatoma).

When to see a doctor

Seek professional care if you experience any of the following symptoms

  • Fever

Possible Causes

Generally, Draining from the ear can be related to:

  • Ear Infection

    Infection of the middle ear (area just behind the eardrum) by bacteria or viruses. Contributing factors include nasal obstruction by adenoids and allergic rhinitis. The symptoms can include ear pain or fullness, fevers, and muffled hearing. This is more common in children but can also present in adults. In severe cases, the eardrum may rupture leading to drainage coming out the ear canal.

  • Migraine

    A type of headache that typically presents as throbbing, pulsating pain on one side of the head, sometimes with associated nausea or sensitivity to light and sound. Sometimes, sensory disturbances, such as vision changes (seeing flashing lights or zigzag lines), can occur before the headache. The pain may worsen on exposure to bright lights or loud noise. Triggers for migraine include stress, poor sleep, caffeine, and hormonal changes in women.

Related serious diseases

Sometimes, Draining from the ear may be related to these serious diseases:

  • Perforated Tympanic Membrane

    A hole in the eardrum. It is typically caused by direct injury, but can also be caused by severe infections in the middle ear (otitis media).

Doctor's Diagnostic Questions

Your doctor may ask these questions to check for this symptom:

  • Do you have ear discharge?

  • Are your ears hurting?

  • Do you have a fever?

  • Have you ever experienced dizziness with ringing in the ears or deafness?

  • Do you struggle to focus or feel less aware of your surroundings?

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Find Similar Symptoms

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References

Reviewed By:

Eric A. Gantwerker, MD, MMSC

Eric A. Gantwerker, MD, MMSC (Otolaryngology (ENT))

Pediatric Otolaryngologist at Northwell Health and Associate Professor of Otolaryngology at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. He holds a Master of Medical Science (MMSc) in Medical Education with a special focus on educational technology, educational research, and game-based learning from Harvard Medical School and a Master of Science in Physiology and Biophysics from Georgetown University. He has a special interest in faculty development and has been a speaker or faculty at hundreds of local, national, and international courses and conferences. He is also an active blogger and podcaster for several organizations, including the Harvard Macy Institute (HMI), Harvard Medical School CME Online, and BackTable Innovations. He has been featured in the news and print for media outlets such as USA Today, Businesswire, The Washington Post, Nature Medicine, Fox News, and KevinMD. He was also the Vice President, Medical Director of a medical video game company, Level Ex from 2018 to 2023 that utilized game technology and psychology to create interactive experiences for healthcare professionals. | He is recognized as an expert on the implementation of educational technologies and gaming with a foundation in educational theory for health professions education. He was honored to be inducted as an Associate Member of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Academy of Master Surgeon Educators and as an Associate Fellow of the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE).

Rohini R, MD

Rohini R, MD (Otolaryngology (ENT))

Dr. Rohini R is an ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, with a Fellowship in Advanced Endoscopic Sinus and Skull Base Surgery and a Fellowship in Aesthetic Medicine and Lasers. Besides clinical practice and working with Ubie, she is actively training and mentoring medical students and residents. She has functioned in various work settings - teaching hospitals, private and free health centers, and worked with patients from all socioeconomic backgrounds due to her experience in free hospitals and volunteering in India and Singapore.

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