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Otitis Externa Medication

  • Author: Ariel A Waitzman, MD, FRCSC; Chief Editor: Ravindhra G Elluru, MD, PhD  more...
 
Updated: Jul 11, 2016
 

Medication Summary

Most cases of otitis externa (OE) are caused by superficial bacterial infections and can be treated with over-the-counter analgesics and topical eardrops. Commonly used topical eardrops are acetic acid drops, which change the pH of the ear canal; antibacterial drops, which control bacterial growth; and antifungal preparations. Oral or parenteral antibiotics are reserved for severe cases. Otic antibiotic and steroid combinations have shown to be highly successful in treatment. The corticosteroid ingredient decreases inflammation and can help to ease the pain. These eardrops treat bacterial infection and reduce canal edema. The agents commonly prescribed for treating otitis externa are associated with cure rates between 87% and 97%.[20] In severe cases, oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotic therapy and narcotic analgesics may be required.

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Antibiotics

Class Summary

Most cases of OE are caused by superficial bacterial infections. Accordingly, most individuals with this condition may be treated with topical antibiotic preparations. Some preparations also contain a corticosteroid ingredient. The small amount of steroid that is present in the solution can help to ease the pain and edema associated with OE.

Hydrocortisone/neomycin/polymyxin B (Cortisporin, Cortomycin)

 

Hydrocortisone/neomycin/polymyxin is an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent for otic use, available as a solution or a suspension. It is used to treat steroid-responsive inflammatory conditions for which a corticosteroid is indicated and in which bacterial infection or a risk of bacterial infection exists.

Ofloxacin otic

 

Otic ofloxacin is a pyridine carboxylic acid derivative with broad-spectrum effect that inhibits bacterial growth by inhibiting DNA gyrase. It is available as a 0.3% (3 mg/mL) solution.

Ciprofloxacin otic (Cetraxal)

 

Otic ciprofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone that inhibits bacterial synthesis (and thus growth) by inhibiting DNA gyrase. It has activity against pseudomonads, streptococci, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Staphylococcus epidermidis, and most gram-negative organisms but has no activity against anaerobes. It is available with or without hydrocortisone. Cetraxal is an otic solution available as 14 single-use applicators containing 0.25 mL of 0.2% solution each. Ciloxan is an ophthalmic solution that may be used for OE.

Dexamethasone/tobramycin (TobraDex)

 

Tobramycin interferes with bacterial protein synthesis by binding to 30S and 50S ribosomal subunits, thereby causing defects in the bacterial cell membrane. Dexamethasone decreases inflammation by suppressing migration of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs) and reducing capillary permeability. TobraDex is an ophthalmic solution that may be used for OE.

Gentamicin ophthalmic (Garamycin, Gentak)

 

Gentamicin is an aminoglycoside antibiotic used for gram-negative bacterial coverage. It is available as an ophthalmic solution that may be used for OE. This solution is a compounded medication, with each 1 mL containing 3 mg of gentamicin sulfate and 1 mg of betamethasone sodium phosphate.

Ciprofloxacin and dexamethasone otic (Ciprodex)

 

Ciprofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone that inhibits bacterial DNA synthesis (and thus growth) by inhibiting DNA gyrase and topoisomerases, which are required for replication, transcription, and translation of genetic material. It has activity against pseudomonads, streptococci, MRSA, S epidermidis, and most gram-negative organisms but not against anaerobes. Dexamethasone decreases external auditory canal (EAC) inflammation by suppressing migration of PMNs and reducing capillary permeability; it also relieves pain symptoms.

This otic suspension is indicated for use in OE, as well as for use in otitis media in individuals with tympanostomy tubes.

Ciprofloxacin and hydrocortisone otic suspension (Cipro HC Otic)

 

Ciprofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone that inhibits bacterial DNA synthesis (and thus growth) by inhibiting DNA gyrase and topoisomerases, which are required for replication, transcription, and translation of genetic material. It has activity against pseudomonads, streptococci, MRSA, S epidermidis, and most gram-negative organisms but not against anaerobes. Hydrocortisone decreases inflammation by suppressing migration of PMNs and reducing capillary permeability.

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Otic, Other

Class Summary

Inflammation and accumulated debris allow the growth of bacterial species. This growth is counteracted by the use of mild acidifying medications, such as acetic acid solutions. These agents are useful for fungal OE or for mild OE believed to be of bacterial origin. They can also be useful for prevention.

Acetic acid in aluminum acetate (Borofair)

 

Aluminum acetate has a drying effect. Acetic acid works well in superficial bacterial infections of OE.

Hydrocortisone and acetic acid otic solution (VoSoL HC)

 

Acetic acid is antibacterial and antifungal; hydrocortisone is anti-inflammatory, antiallergic, and antipruritic. The combination of the 2 agents is inexpensive and works well in treating superficial bacterial infections of OE.

Alcohol vinegar otic mix

 

A homemade mix of 50% rubbing alcohol, 25% white vinegar, and 25% distilled water is as effective as pharmaceutical acidifying agents and less expensive. It is very useful for prevention and can be used as a flushing solution for fungal infections.

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Oral Antibiotics

Class Summary

Oral antibiotics are used to treat severe infection or cellulitis. Fluoroquinolones are the drugs of choice by virtue of their coverage of Pseudomonas species.

Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)

 

Ciprofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone that inhibits bacterial DNA synthesis (and thus growth) by inhibiting DNA gyrase and topoisomerases, which are required for replication, transcription, and translation of genetic material. It has activity against pseudomonads, streptococci, MRSA, S epidermidis, and most gram-negative organisms but not against anaerobes.

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Analgesics

Class Summary

OE can be quite painful, and control of this pain is essential to quality patient care. Analgesics ensure patient comfort and may have sedating properties. Inexpensive, simple nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce inflammation and irritation and can be paired with opiates to improve pain symptoms.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol, FeverAll, Aspirin-Free Anacin, Tylenol Children)

 

Over-the-counter acetaminophen is appropriate for most patients. It is the drug of choice for pain in patients who are known to be hypersensitive to aspirin or NSAIDs, who have upper GI gastrointestinal (GI) disease, or who are taking oral anticoagulants.

Acetaminophen and codeine (Tylenol #3)

 

The combination of acetaminophen and codeine is indicated for the treatment of mild to moderate pain.

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Antifungals, Other

Class Summary

A small but significant percentage of OE cases are due to Aspergillus species or other yeasts and fungi (otomycosis). Some cases of fungal OE can be treated with acidifying drops; topical antifungal agents are used to treat otomycosis refractory to these drops. The mechanism of action of topical antifungal agents usually involves inhibition of the pathways (eg, enzymes, substrates, and transport) necessary for sterol/cell membrane synthesis or those involved in altering the permeability of the fungal cell membrane (eg, polyenes).

Clotrimazole 1% otic solution (Lotrimin AF)

 

Otic clotrimazole solution is a compounded medication. Clotrimazole is a broad-spectrum antifungal agent that inhibits yeast growth by altering cell membrane permeability, causing the death of fungal cells.

Nystatin powder (Nystop, Nyamic, Pedi-Dri)

 

Nystatin is a fungicidal and fungistatic antimicrobial obtained from Streptomyces noursei; it is effective against various yeasts and yeastlike fungi. It changes the permeability of the fungal cell membrane after binding to cell membrane sterols, causing the cellular contents to leak. Treatment should continue until 48 hours after the disappearance of symptoms. Topical application of nystatin reduces fungal growth.

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Ariel A Waitzman, MD, FRCSC Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology, Wayne State University School of Medicine

Ariel A Waitzman, MD, FRCSC is a member of the following medical societies: Canadian Society of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Medical Association, Michigan State Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Ravindhra G Elluru, MD, PhD Professor, Wright State University, Boonshoft School of Medicine; Pediatric Otolaryngologist, Department of Otolaryngology, Dayton Children's Hospital Medical Center

Ravindhra G Elluru, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Bronchoesophagological Association, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, Association for Research in Otolaryngology, Society for Ear, Nose and Throat Advances in Children, Triological Society, American Society for Cell Biology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

Jerry Balentine, DO Professor of Emergency Medicine, New York College of Osteopathic Medicine; Executive Vice President, Chief Medical Officer, Attending Physician in Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Barnabas Hospital

Jerry Balentine, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians, American College of Physician Executives, American Osteopathic Association, and New York Academy of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

anjiv K Bhalla, MD Consulting Staff, Department of Emergency Medicine, St Paul's Hospital of Vancouver, St Joseph's Hospital of Hamilton

Sanjiv K Bhalla, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, British Columbia Medical Association, Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Medical Protective Association, and Ontario Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Orval Brown, MD Director of Otolaryngology Clinic, Professor, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas

Orval Brown, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Bronchoesophagological Association, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology, Society for Ear, Nose and Throat Advances in Children, and Society of University Otolaryngologists-Head and Neck Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Pamela L Dyne, MD Professor of Clinical Medicine/Emergency Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; Attending Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center

Pamela L Dyne, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mark W Fourre, MD Program Director, Department of Emergency Medicine, Maine Medical Center; Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Vermont School of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Joseph P Garry, MD, FACSM, FAAFP Associate Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School

Joseph P Garry, MD, FACSM, FAAFP is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Sports Medicine, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, and Minnesota Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Gerard J Gianoli, MD Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Tulane University School of Medicine; Vice President, The Ear and Balance Institute; Chief Executive Officer, Ponchartrain Surgery Center

Gerard J Gianoli, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American College of Surgeons, American Neurotology Society, American Otological Society, Society of University Otolaryngologists-Head and Neck Surgeons, and Triological Society

Disclosure: Vesticon, Inc. None Board membership

Ashutosh Kacker, MD Associate Professor of Otorhinolaryngology, Department of Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College; Associate Attending Physician, Otolaryngologist, New York Presbyterian Hospital; Attending Physician, New York Hospital of Queens; Attending Physician, Lenox Hill Hospital

Ashutosh Kacker, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American College of Surgeons, American Rhinologic Society, and Triological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Samuel Lee, MD, MS Resident Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit Receiving Hospital

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

John E McClay, MD Associate Professor of Pediatric Otolaryngology, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Children's Hospital of Dallas, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School

John E McClay, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American College of Surgeons, and American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Adam J Rosh, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Wayne State University/Detroit Receiving Hospital

Adam J Rosh, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Andrew L Sherman, MD, MS Associate Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine, Vice Chairman, Chief of Spine and Musculoskeletal Services, Program Director, SCI Fellowship and PMR Residency Programs, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Miami, Leonard A Miller School of Medicine

Andrew L Sherman, MD, MS is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine, American Medical Association, and Association of Academic Physiatrists

Disclosure: Pfizer Honoraria Speaking and teaching

Jack A Shohet, MD President, Shohet Ear Associates Medical Group, Inc; Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine

Jack A Shohet, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Medical Association, American Neurotology Society, American Tinnitus Association, and California Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Salary Employment

Russell D White, MD Professor of Medicine, Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Director of Sports Medicine Fellowship Program, Medical Director, Sports Medicine Center, Head Team Physician, University of Missouri-Kansas City Intercollegiate Athletic Program, Department of Community and Family Medicine, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, Truman Medical Center-Lakewood

Russell D White, MD, is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American College of Sports Medicine, American Diabetes Association, and American Medical Society for Sports Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Craig C Young, MD Professor, Departments of Orthopedic Surgery and Community and Family Medicine, Medical Director of Sports Medicine, Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship, Medical College of Wisconsin

Craig C Young, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Sports Medicine, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, and Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Acute otitis externa. Ear canal is red and edematous, and discharge is present.
Otitis externa with ear wick in place. Note discharge from canal and swelling of canal.
Anatomy of external and middle ear.
 
 
 
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