What is fluid behind the eardrum?
Fluid behind the
eardrum, also called
otitis media with effusion, is a buildup of fluid in
the middle ear behind the eardrum without symptoms of infection. The condition,
sometimes called glue ear, often follows an ear infection, although it can
occur without one.
When swelling from a cold or allergy attack
causes blockage of the
eustachian tubes, air can't reach the middle ear. The
vacuum and suction created by the blockage pulls fluid into the middle ear and
prevents this and other fluids from draining out of the middle ear. The fluid
that builds up is called effusion.
When is the buildup of fluid in the middle ear considered chronic?
Fluid in the middle ear behind the eardrum following an
ear infection is normal. In most cases, the fluid will clear up within 3 months
without treatment. If the fluid stays for longer than 3 months, it's considered
chronic. But if after 3 months the child doesn't have hearing loss, you may
decide to treat him or her at home for another 3 months.
How is chronic otitis media with effusion treated?
Watchful waiting may be all that is needed. This means that you keep an
eye on symptoms and if they improve, no treatment is needed. Fluid behind the
eardrum after an infection is normal. The fluid often clears up within 3 months
without treatment. If the fluid persists and there is hearing loss, the
treatment options are antibiotics and surgery. Surgical procedures that treat
this condition include placing tubes into the eardrum to drain the fluid or
removing the adenoids and, possibly, the tonsils.
How can I tell if my child has otitis media with effusion?
A child who has otitis media with effusion might
experience popping, ringing, or a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear.
He or she may also have a loss of hearing, which may make him or her seem
dreamy or grumpy. But some children have no symptoms with this condition.
What are the risks of chronic fluid behind the eardrum?
Ongoing fluid behind the eardrum can cause temporary hearing loss and,
rarely, permanent hearing loss. This is of greater concern in children younger
than 2 years, as normal hearing is important when children are learning to
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