The auricle forms with the external auditory canal the so-called outer ear.
The two structures of the outer ear serve to record the sound ( auricle ) and its transmission (external auditory canal) to the inner eardrum.
To be able to fulfill these functions, nature has provided for a direct connection between the auricle and the external auditory canal.
This is important because inflammation, which is supposed to affect the visible auricle, often has its true origin in the auditory canal. However, an inflammation limited to the auricle may also occur.
Read more on the subject: Pain auricle
Basically, infectious can be distinguished from non-infectious causes of inflammation of the auricle.
Triggers of an infectious inflammation may be bacteria, viruses or fungi, which usually infect the ear canal and then make themselves felt on the pinna. Such infections are favored by factors that affect the body from the outside as well as by the body's own.
Examples of external factors include bathing in dirty water and minor injuries when cleaning the ear canal. The body's own factors include, for example, bony prominences in the area of the ear canal and earwax ( cerumen ). The factors mentioned can hinder the self-cleaning of the ear and thus be the basis for the growth of various pathogens, which can then cause inflammation of the ear canal and the outer ear.
Also persistent middle ear infections can be a cause, since exciters from the middle ear can reach also in the area of the outer ear.
However, especially in the case of pre-damaged skin of the auricle, pathogens can also penetrate directly there and cause a locally limited infection without the involvement of the auditory canal. Often the inflammation is limited to the cartilage of the auricle and is then referred to as perichondritis .
The cause of inflammation affecting the earlobe is often bacterial. Since the earlobe has no cartilage in contrast to the auricle, this is a skin infection, the so-called Eryspiel .
In addition, chickenpox viruses can cause inflammation around the pinna. The infection can be redone if the patient had no chickenpox, or if there is no sufficient defense against the viruses. However, it is also possible that it comes to reactivation, ie the activation of viruses previously in hibernation. These viruses remain in the body after a severe chickenpox disease and can again lead to symptoms, especially in weak defenses. The resulting disease is then referred to as shingles ( zoster ). The shingles of the ear is called zoster oticus .
In non-infectious causes, the contact dermatitis are in the foreground. This type of inflammation can be caused by an allergic reaction, ie a hypersensitivity reaction. Triggers can be substances that have direct contact with the pinna or the ear canal. These may be included, for example, in jewelry or earplugs, but also in medicines (for example, ear drops ). In addition, products such as shampoo and other hair care products, as well as cosmetics to think.
On the other hand, a so-called toxic reaction is conceivable. In contrast to the allergic reaction, no harmless substances act on the skin, instead it comes into contact with harmful substances that directly attack the skin and thus cause inflammation.
However, the already mentioned inflammation of the cartilage of the auricle, the perichondritis, can be caused not only by infectious agents, but also by non-infectious factors such as sun, heat or cold.
Finally, it should be mentioned that an inflammation of the auricle may also be an expression of an underlying skin disease. This may also hide psoriasis or atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis).
Fundamental signs of inflammation are pain, redness, swelling and overheating in the area of the affected area, in this case the pinna. In contact dermatitis, dry skin with scaling and itching often occurs in addition to redness.
As a reaction, bacterial infections can also cause enlarged lymph nodes on the head and neck.
The above-mentioned signs of inflammation can occur in all diseases mentioned above. However, not all signs need to be present for each disease.
If there is an inflammation of the cartilaginous skin of the pinna ( perichondritis ), it usually manifests itself as redness, swelling and severe pain in the corresponding area. It can also pus come to light.
If the symptoms also occur in the area of the earlobe, and there is fever or chills, the cause may be a bacterial infection of the skin, the erysipelas .
Symptoms of an inflammation caused by Winpockenviren can be in addition to redness of the auricle and liquid-filled blisters. These can also occur in the ear canal and in adjacent areas of the head. Often, the bursting of the bubbles form encrustations on the auricle, auditory canal and other affected area. These symptoms can be accompanied by fever. In addition, there is often a very strong pain, which can sometimes persist even before the appearance of the blisters and a long time after their healing. Impairment of the nerves can also cause paralysis of the facial muscles, dizziness and deafness.
Most important for the diagnosis is the examination of the outer ear by the doctor.
For this purpose, the auricle with the naked eye and the ear canal with a so-called otoscope examined. As a rule, the doctor will then make a diagnosis based on the patient's findings and information on existing symptoms. In addition, depending on the suspected diagnosis, inflammation levels in the blood can be examined, or tests for allergies can be carried out. In addition, smears are often taken from the inflamed area in order to determine pathogens and to be able to direct the therapy to them.
In addition, if shingles are suspected, tests of hearing and balance and facial muscles should be performed to detect involvement of the nerves of the head.
If psoriasis, atopic dermatitis or any other skin condition is suspected, the skin of other parts of the body must also be examined.
The therapy of the inflammation of the auricle depends on its cause.
Bacterial inflammation requires rapid antibiotic treatment. It is localized by the application of antibiotic-containing strips or drops in or on the ear. The local therapy can also complement disinfecting envelopes on the skin. In addition, however, the intake of antibiotics in tablet form, or even the administration of antibiotic-containing infusions is usually necessary. If this is the case, it must be admitted to the hospital.
If fungi are diagnosed as causing the inflammation, effective medicines are used against them. If Winpockenviren are made responsible for the inflammation, funds are prescribed against them. If nerves in the facial area are impaired in their function, this further necessitates the use of cortisone preparations.
For pain, analgesics can also be prescribed.
A prevention of the inflammation of the auricle is only very limited possible. It is important to do an ear clean, if at all, only very carefully to avoid injury by cotton swabs. In addition, contact with dirty water should be avoided. If the allergy is known, avoid allergy-causing substances as well.
Treated in good time, the prognosis of pinna inflammation is good. A fast therapy is especially necessary for bacterial infections, as these can cause serious complications to the auricle. Even a shingles must be treated quickly by the doctor to prevent serious damage to the nerves of the head.
Thus, a quick visit to the doctor has a significant influence on the most uncomplicated possible healing of the inflammation.