Disease: Ear Wax
Cerumen

    What is ear wax?

    The skin on the outer part of the ear canal has special glands that produce ear wax, also known as cerumen. The purpose of this natural wax is to protect the ear from damage and infections. Normally, a small amount of wax accumulates and then dries up and falls out of the ear canal, carrying with it unwanted dust or sand particles.

    Ear wax is helpful to coat the skin of the ear canal where it acts as a temporary water repellent. The absence of ear wax may result in dry, itchy ears, and even infection. Ear wax is formed in the outer third of the ear canal.

    What does ear wax look like?

    Cerumen varies in form and appearance from person to person. It may be almost liquid, firm and solid, or dry and flaky. The color of ear wax varies depending upon its composition. Glandular secretions, sloughed skin cells, normal bacteria present on the surface of the canal, and water may all be present in ear wax.

    Ear Wax Illustration

    The ear canals are considered to be self-cleaning. This means that ear wax and sloughed skin cells typically pass on their own from the inside of the ear canal to the outer opening. Old earwax moves from the deeper areas of the ear canal out to the opening. At the opening of the ear canal the ear wax usually dries up and falls out of the ear canal.

    Unpleasant symptoms related to excessive ear wax

    Excessive ear wax can cause different symptoms, including:

    • earache,
    • a sense of fullness in the ears,
    • hearing problems,
    • ringing in the ears (tinnitus),
    • cough,
    • itching,
    • or discharge from the ear canal.

    When should ear wax be removed?

    Under ideal circumstances, a person should never have to clean their ear canals. However, sometimes removal of ear wax is necessary. Excessive ear wax may build up in the ear canal for many of reasons including:

    • narrowing of the ear canal resulting from infections or diseases of the skin, bones, or connective tissue;
    • production of a less fluid form of cerumen (more common in older persons due to aging of the glands that produce ear wax); or
    • overproduction of cerumen in response to trauma or blockage within the ear canal.

    How should ear wax be removed?

    Many cases of ear wax respond to home treatments. It is possible to try using a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, or glycerin in the ear to soften the wax. Hydrogen peroxide drops can also be used. There are also over-the-counter (OTC) products available to remove ear wax, such as Debrox or Murine Ear Drops. If the ear still feels blocked after using these drops, a physician should be consulted. If the person does try OTC ear wax softeners, it is imperative to know that he or she does not have a perforated (punctured) eardrum prior to using the product. Putting ear wax softeners in the ear in the presence of a perforated eardrum may cause a middle ear infection (otitis media). Similarly, simply washing the ear in the presence of a perforation may start an infection. If a person is uncertain whether or not he or she has a perforation (hole) in the eardrum, consult a health-care professional. Some individuals may also be hypersensitive to products designed to soften ear wax. Therefore, if pain, tenderness or a local skin rash develops, the use of these drops should be discontinued.

    When wax has accumulated so much that it blocks the ear canal (and interferes with hearing), a health-care professional may need to wash it out (known as lavage), remove it by suctioning, or remove it with special instruments. Alternatively, a doctor may prescribe ear drops that are designed to soften the wax (such as trolamine polypeptide oleate-ear drops [Cerumenex]).

    When should ear wax be removed?

    Under ideal circumstances, a person should never have to clean their ear canals. However, sometimes removal of ear wax is necessary. Excessive ear wax may build up in the ear canal for many of reasons including:

    • narrowing of the ear canal resulting from infections or diseases of the skin, bones, or connective tissue;
    • production of a less fluid form of cerumen (more common in older persons due to aging of the glands that produce ear wax); or
    • overproduction of cerumen in response to trauma or blockage within the ear canal.

    How should ear wax be removed?

    Many cases of ear wax respond to home treatments. It is possible to try using a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, or glycerin in the ear to soften the wax. Hydrogen peroxide drops can also be used. There are also over-the-counter (OTC) products available to remove ear wax, such as Debrox or Murine Ear Drops. If the ear still feels blocked after using these drops, a physician should be consulted. If the person does try OTC ear wax softeners, it is imperative to know that he or she does not have a perforated (punctured) eardrum prior to using the product. Putting ear wax softeners in the ear in the presence of a perforated eardrum may cause a middle ear infection (otitis media). Similarly, simply washing the ear in the presence of a perforation may start an infection. If a person is uncertain whether or not he or she has a perforation (hole) in the eardrum, consult a health-care professional. Some individuals may also be hypersensitive to products designed to soften ear wax. Therefore, if pain, tenderness or a local skin rash develops, the use of these drops should be discontinued.

    When wax has accumulated so much that it blocks the ear canal (and interferes with hearing), a health-care professional may need to wash it out (known as lavage), remove it by suctioning, or remove it with special instruments. Alternatively, a doctor may prescribe ear drops that are designed to soften the wax (such as trolamine polypeptide oleate-ear drops [Cerumenex]).

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

    Under ideal circumstances, a person should never have to clean their ear canals. However, sometimes removal of ear wax is necessary. Excessive ear wax may build up in the ear canal for many of reasons including:

    • narrowing of the ear canal resulting from infections or diseases of the skin, bones, or connective tissue;
    • production of a less fluid form of cerumen (more common in older persons due to aging of the glands that produce ear wax); or
    • overproduction of cerumen in response to trauma or blockage within the ear canal.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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