Ear Infections: Types and Causes

Ear infections are caused by viruses and/or bacteria. They occur when the middle ear becomes build up with fluid and can result from upper respiratory infections, such as sinus infections, excess mucus, air pressure changes, smoking, or allergies.

Ear Infections

Common symptoms that Vancouver physician, Ali Ghahary, will see in patients with ear infections, include: discomfort and/or a feeling of pressure inside the ear, hearing difficulty, and pus. Young infants with ear infections may be more irritable than usual.

There are various types of ear infections, with Otitis Media being the most common. This is an infection of the middle ear and typically occurs in infants and young children. OM infections can cause pain, fever, and redness of the eardrum. Most OM ear infections are viral and often go away on their own. However, if they persist or worsen, antibiotics may be required. It some cases, Otitis Media infections can be chronic. If fluid is seen in the ear for more than 6 weeks, tubes may be necessary to help the ears drain properly. For more information on ear infections in children, click here.

Otitis Externa, also known as “swimmer’s ear” or an outer ear infection, is more common during summer months. It can be the result of frequent swimming and not keeping the ears dry. Typically, it’s easily treatable with ear drops and taking precautions to keep the ears from getting wet.

Mastoiditis, a bacterial infection of the ear, affects the bone located behind the ear. It is usually the result of otitis media spreading due to not being treated. Mastoiditis can be severe and lead to meningitis, brain injury, blood poisoning or even deafness if left untreated.

Eardrums can also rupture. This can occur as a result of having a previous ear infection, by noise or injury. A rupture eardrum will typically heal within a few weeks, but can cause temporary (and in certain cases, permanent) problems with hearing.

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Injury Prevention

An est. 5 million Canadians will suffer an injury each year that is usually severe enough to limit their normal activities and send them to their physician or nearest emergency room.

Ali Ghahary - Injury Prevention

Some of the most common types of injuries that Ali Ghahary sees as a practicing physician in Vancouver include sprains and strains, followed by fractures and broken bones, as well as the typical cuts, scrapes, bruises and blisters.

Those at a higher risk of developing an injury include children and adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19, as well as seniors. Injuries can affect many parts of the body including the ankles, feet, legs, hands, wrists, shoulders, elbows, arms and even head – and can lead to concussion, and sometimes even death. In Canada, the majority of injuries in youth are often caused by sports or other recreational activities. For seniors, injuries often occur as a result of walking or doing household chores.

In order to prevent injury, Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests taking precautions, such as wearing helmets and other safety gear.

Concussions, for example, are often a result of physical activity and/or sports, and are most commonly seen in hockey and football players. Wearing a helmet can significantly reduce the risk of developing a concussion. For a more in-depth look at concussions and how they are treated, read Dr. Ghahary’s article titled ‘Concussions: Risk and Prevention.’

concussions

Seniors are also at an increased risk of injury due to their bones being more fragile. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations as well as deaths for seniors living in British Columbia. Prevention may include a number of factors such as in-home changes, using wheelchairs and/or walkers, and ensuring that snow and ice is cleared from outdoor staircases and walkways to avoid slips, trips and falls during winter months.

Click here for a detailed slideshow on how injuries can impact the body’s muscles and ligaments. You can also find information on other injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, by clicking here.

Vancouver’s Opioid Crisis

In 2016, there were 922 overdose deaths in British Columbia. In Vancouver, 15 people died from opioid-related overdoses in just one week alone, making it a public health emergency.

As a result of the increased number of opioid-related deaths across the Province, new guidelines based on one similar to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were established for physicians and the prescribing of opioids and other highly addictive drugs, making British Columbia the first in Canada to be bound, legally, by such guidelines. Medications such as opioids often act as a band-aid when treating chronic pain disorders or other health problems, as Dr. Ali Ghahary has written about previously, and can actually make pain worse.

Patients can often develop a high tolerance to opioids over time, which can then lead to addiction and dependency, and can also ultimately result in individuals turning to other unsafe ways to get the drug – which is often off the street, and is why we have heard of so many cases of drugs being laced with Fentanyl, or its more potent cousin, Carfentanil. Even when ingested in small amounts, these drugs can be deadly.

Under the new guidelines, physicians must sit down and discuss with patients the dangers of opioids and offer alternatives for chronic conditions such as back pain, headaches and other ailments. It is important for physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary to also carefully analyze a patient’s personal and medical history, as some patients may be more vulnerable to addiction such as those who have been abused, or those who come from families with a history of addiction or have previously battled addiction themselves. Doctors should not only weigh the risks and benefits of opioids, but all types of medications, and should also review the patient’s PharmaNet file, as those who are prone to addiction will often do what is called “doctor-shopping” and collect multiple prescriptions from different healthcare professionals…to either get more pulls for themselves, pills to give to others, or pills to sell.

More information on the dangers of opioids and alternative treatment options for chronic pain can be found by clicking here.