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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Acute Otitis Media
      Category : Health Centers > Ears and Hearing Disorders

Acute Otitis Media

Alternate Names : Middle Ear Infection

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Acute otitis media is a bacterial or viral infection of the middle ear.

What is going on in the body?

The three parts of the ear are the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the nasal cavity. The eustachian tube keeps equal ear pressure between the eardrum and the outside of the body. Any secretions formed in the middle ear flow into the nasal cavity through this tube.

Otitis media often begins when a virus, such as the one that causes colds, enters the nose. The virus travels into the eustachian tube and causes it to swell. The virus can also travel up the eustachian tube to the middle ear. When the swollen tube does open, bacteria enter the tube and the middle ear. Bacteria multiply, causing an acute infection.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Otitis media is an infection caused by a virus or bacteria. The following children are at higher risk for this type of infection:

  • children in day care
  • children under the age of 3 or 4 years
  • children who live with smokers
  • children who take bottles to bed
  • children whose parents had childhood otitis media
  • children with chronic allergies or sinusitis
  • Native American and Eskimo children
  • Individuals who have very small or poorly functioning tubes are also at a higher risk for infections. Children with head and face abnormalities often have eustachian tube problems. This includes children with Down syndrome and cleft palate.


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    Acute Otitis Media: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Mark Loury, MD
    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 07/12/01

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