Earaches and ear infections are easily confused as they commonly overlap each other. However, they are not the same medical condition. In fact, an earache is a probable symptom of an infection. There are several ways to correctly tell the difference between earache and ear infection.
How To Identify A Simple Earache
An earache is classified as the actual feeling of pain in the ear. This can present itself as a dull, sharp or even burning sensation. One or both ears can be affected by an ache at the same time.
There are a vast array of potential causes for an earache. For instance, sudden pressure changes due to flying or altitude variations can lead to pain. Other causes include tooth infections or abscesses, TMJ disorder, objects stuck in the ear or ruptured and perforated eardrums. Sinus infections are also common culprits when it comes to causing an ache within the ear.
Earache vs. Ear Infection
Ear infections, on the other hand, are caused by a bacteria or virus. Fluid build-up inside the ear creates a blockage which then leads to the development of an infection. This condition comes with its own distinctive set of symptoms.
First and foremost, an earache can result from a severe infection. This pain normally develops quite suddenly and can be moderate to severe. Other bothersome symptoms could include loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, hearing loss and drainage. Severe cases can cause an individual to experience vertigo. A high fever is also a telling sign that an infection is present.
Treating Earaches & Infections
Treatment for these two ailments are quite varied. An earache can usually be managed without the assistance of a medical professional. Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be used to help relieve pain. Individuals with an ache should also sleep or rest with their head slightly elevated to relieve pressure. Hot or cold packs can be applied to the ear as well to help with discomfort.
The proper treatment for an ear infection will depend on the location of the infection itself, (outer, middle or inner ear). When pain is quite severe, prescription drops can be given to help provide relief. Antibiotics will also be given, depending on the extent of the condition. High levels of pain and a fever will always dictate this course of treatment.
The difference between earache and ear infection can be determined through several factors. However, when an individual is in doubt, a medical professional should be consulted. A doctor can accurately diagnose the problem and offer suggestions for the proper plan of treatment.