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A to Z: Otorrhea

Otorrhea is discharge from the external part of the ear canal.

More to Know

Ear drainage can be serous (thin and watery), sanguineous (containing blood), or purulent (full of pus). It may or may not smell foul.

Vertigo, ear pain, fever, itching, ringing in the ear, and hearing loss are all symptoms that can accompany otorrhea.

Many things can cause fluid to drain from the ear. Most commonly, it occurs with swimmer's ear or when an ear infection leads to a perforated eardrum (with or without middle ear infection). Head injury can cause leaking of cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord). Head injury is a less common cause of otorrhea, but it is more serious and can be life threatening.

Keep in Mind

Because ear discharge has many origins, it's important to see a doctor to identify the cause so that it can be properly treated.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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