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aural polyps

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Ear polyps

Alternative Names 
ear canal polyps

Aural polyps are non-cancerous, fleshy growths in the outer ear canal or on the eardrum.

What is going on in the body? 
Polyps usually form from constant irritation of the ear canal or eardrum. This irritation is most commonly caused by external ear infections, or chronic otitis externa.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? 
The main signs and symptoms of aural polyps relate to the underlying infection. Often there is pain and itching in the ear canal. There may also be drainage from the infection. Because the ear canal has a growth in it, there may be some hearing impairment as well.

What are the causes and risks of the condition? 
Infection is the most common cause of aural polyps. Benign ear growths such as cholesteatoma, or ear cysts, can also show up as polyps. This problem usually forms from a dysfunctional ear canal or a reaction to a tube placed in the eardrum.

Necrotising externa otitis, a bone infection within the ear canal, can also cause polyps. It can spread and cause brain abscess, facial paralysis, deafness, meningitis, and bone infection of the base of the skull.

What can be done to prevent the condition? 
Prompt treatment of external ear infections can help to prevent aural polyps.

How is the condition diagnosed? 
An aural polyp is found by ear examination. There is usually pus if the primary cause is infection.

What are the long-term effects of the condition? 
Polyps in the ear canal may grow, bleed, and affect hearing. Cholesteatoma, or ear cysts, can spread and damage the inner and middle ears. Non-cancerous growths may increase the person's risk for chronic otitis externa and hearing impairment. Malignant otitis externa will continue to spread unless treated.

What are the risks to others? 
There are no risks to others, as aural polyps are not contagious.

What are the treatments for the condition? 
Aural polyps are generally treated with opical steroid creams and antibiotic eardrops. For long-term or recurrent infections, steroid creams and white table vinegar may be used. Antifungal drops and creams are used if the problem involves fungal infection. Polyps from ear tubes may require tube removal if drops are not effective.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
Side effects are specific to the medications being used, but may include allergic reaction, itching, blistering, redness, and thickening of the ear canal skin. Medication should be stopped if symptoms occur.

Surgery carries a risk of infection, bleeding, and allergic reaction to anaesthesia.

What happens after treatment for the condition? 
The infection and the polyp generally resolve with therapy and have no long-term effects. If chronic otitis externa occurs, maintenance therapy with steroid drops, vinegar washes, or antifungal products may be necessary. If a tube had to be removed because of a polyp, another tube with a different material may be needed if ear infection recurs.

How is the condition monitored? 
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.

Author: Mark Loury, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.

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