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Staph Infection in Inner Ear ... !
Marc_79 posted:
Hello, I've had chronic inner ear problems since birth ... 30 years later and I've all but given up on the medical system ... A few years ago a sample was tested , of my then 24/7 leaking ear (the fluid was yellowish and slightly smelly) ... I was told that it was staph infection and was prescribed "special" expensive eardrops and something to "dry me up" ... well the drying up part worked but my ears are still suffering roughly 5 years later.

It's a Looong backstory of course ... but basically I had many many ear infections , antibiotics and sets of "grommets" (US - "tubes" I think?) growing up and also an operation for a skin-graft onto my eardrum (it didn't take). That eardrum has been completely rotted away for over 10 years now. The grommet in my other ear finally came out after about 15years (yep 15 , It was a "butterfly clip" one) not too long ago , about a year. I presume the same infection is in that ear and that this eardrum will now be all but rotted away also.

Needless to say , I'm slightly hard of hearing. At least I don't get the intense pain anymore that I went thru so many hundreds of times as a child ... my guess is that the majority of nerves are dead.Specialist said it was 1 in 10000 case , and that was before the failed procedures. About 15yrs ago.

Anyway , There's so much more I could elaborate on but I will get to my question of priority ... QUESTION:
  • If left untreated ... could the staph infection enter the bloodstream or brain and could this lead to more serious complications or even be fatal? What are the risks?

    (I read something about MRAS & Encephalitis today that made me think twice even if it IS rare ...) I'm o.k. with going deaf , that is one thing , but if I am at risk of worse because of an untreated infection then I might consider trying medical treatment one last time. I might add that getting to the doctor is not easy for me in my location , I also have depression and anxiety issues so I pretty much live as a recluse. I would rather go deaf and avoid more traumatic experiences than go for another 20 years of being a "guinea pig". However , If I'm at risk of infecting my whole system by leaving my ears untreated I would like to know , I would certainly think twice about my position.

    Thankyou in advance for any advice you may have.

  • Reply
    Rod_Moser_PA_PhD responded:
    Marc, I can't accurately diagnose your ear problems over the Internet, any more than you can yourself....which is nil. Based on your posting alone, I am very concerned about your symptoms....

    The first thing that comes to my mind would be a Cholesteatoma...

    A cholesteatoma is caused by prolonged eustachian tube dysfunction (with negative middle ear pressure ? the eardrum is ?sucked in?) -- the reason you had grommets (tubes), and chronic otitis media.

    A cholesteatoma is a debris-filled and chronically infected "sac" -- a retracted pocket behind the eardrum. The symptoms of a cholesteatoma include a chronically draining ear, usually with a foul odor (sound familiar?) A feeling of fullness, intermittent pain, dizziness, or one-sided facial muscle weakness can also occur as the cholesteatoma progressives.Untreated, cholesteatomas can increase in size and damage the tiny middle ear bones, eventually eroding the inner ear and facial nerve, leading to permanent hearing loss and/or dizziness. In very rare instances, severely invasive cholesteatomas can lead other very serious complications, even death.

    Cholesteatomas are typically treated by surgically removing the entire debris-filled sac, or just draining it. An open mastoid cavity is often surgically necessary to control future infections, which tend to reoccur. These post-surgical mastoid cavities must be periodically cleaned through the lifespan, so ongoing ENT care is necessary.

    You can't diagnose "Staph" or even MRSA by it's appearance. The discharge would need to be properly cultured. Is is possible in your case? Sure, Staph is a common pathogen. MRSA is less common, but is occurring more and more often. Since I can't examine you or your ears, I have no idea how bad your situation is right now, but I am very concerned.

    Although I am sympathetic about your anxiety issues (perhaps, agoraphobia), the ONLY way for you to be properly diagnosed and treated is for you to see a good ENT -- not your general medical provider. I am not sure where you live on this planet, but this is the only way to go. I think you need to just do it. You can take some antianxiety meds to get you out of the house and to the ENT; having a good friend help you.
    Marc_79 responded:
    Thankyou for your considered reply Dr Moser, I really appreciate it. I'm quite aware that a virtual diagnosis is impossible and that wasn't my intention ... however , you've certainly done a brilliant job of explaining your thoughts , giving me some more to think about no doubt. I had to look up "Cholesteatomas" ... I do believe this was ruled out in the earlier days but i haven't heard it mentioned since , I could also be mistaken as I've never read my medical records (It's probably high time I did ,(they don't make it easy anymore though)).

    Btw , before I get back to the topic ... Australia is the part of the planet I live on ... no worries , G'day And to adress some of your other mentions ... Yes I've seen an ENT back in the day (1 in 10000 case : those little crossbones (forget spl*) were at risk when I was a young teen ... Specialists reasoning was that I was lucky to have shown up in time (country hospitals were far from advanced 20years ago as you could imagine) and that ... in no uncertain doubt (that was visible) I was quite "fixable" ... well turns out they were wrong .. .Skin graft , it was only a few days but even more painful than the worst of worst ear infections ... I know now that they were kidding themselves by giving me just paracetomol for the after surgery pain (?)

    (sorry if at all I sound a little cynical , but I have been through a couple of different surgeries and each time it has been traumatic for me ... Doctor told me he cleaned my burst appendix mess real well and didn't insert drainage tubes ... needless to say that I got 4 drainage tubes after days and days of pain , being told I'm a sook and just want painkillers coz I'm addicted to them ... AND after all that rushed into catscans , ultrasounds and another more Major Surgery ... with an Abcyss of the bowel (in laymans terms they said : Basically an infection of your entire bowels and stomachry system [sic>. All because they simply Would Not Listen to their Young Patient Child or his Parents).

    Regardless of all that , I'd not be alive past 13 if it weren't for recieving the medical care I did (no matter how dodgy) at the time. Of this I am truly greatful ... even if it has been a major Shock to my system of life and lifestyle. Every day is a blessing and If only we could all know it from birth. I digress. But thankyou for your time all the same.

    Yes , had an ENT years ago , and Yes 5 or so years ago got a "sample" sent away to be "cultured" by my GP , results being "Staph infection ... Golden staph to be precise (I think it's the same thing tho Aureus) .. got prescribed some sort of milky white liquid eardrops and some sort of "dry-out" medicine ... sometimes wish the 'ol ears were still leaking as I'm permanantly dry now since that medicine ... ears seem to never get "release" anymore , same infection but now the creamy wax smells and has difficulty in escaping . I can assure you I still have this infection inside both my ears ... there is one other thread here that talks about the itch .. and that really is irritating ... again ... I'm either just used to it or like the pain I believe that my nerves are dead , so now when i get (1 drop of) water in my ear , I get the infection feelings of "fullness and pressure" etc but only very dull pain that is easily ignorable with a few beers and plenty of scintillating hobbies ... to be sure. I haven't been to the doctors in a number of years now. Simply stopped getting Antibiotics ... nothing changed at all .. they healed in 2 weeks or so on or off the pills. For a while. (one eardrum was already gone , who's going to bother , seriously!?) Anyway , running out of space here and this PC is faulty so I'd better finish up ... I wonder if you know how much having a forum such as this , can help a person cope. Cheers. Much regards,

    Rod_Moser_PA_PhD responded:
    A few Fosters is not going to solve this potentially-serious ear problem, Marc, as you know. The thing about disease is that it can progress -- get worse over time -- even if it feels the same to you. Unless you make the effort to see a good ENT specialist again, there is really no way to know where you stand. Sometimes, you don't want to know those answers...or to be informed that you need surgery (again)...but ignorance is really not bliss in this case. Based on what you have shared, the chance that you have a serious infection going on right now is quite high. I understand your reluctance (or fear).

    There is really no reason for you to take this risk, when you can have access to medical care. I know that Australia (I have visited twice and love your country) has some excellent specialists, but you must go to a large city or go to university-based medical center. Your particular problem is most likely well-beyond the rhelm of a general medical provider at this point.

    You posted because you were concerned. Now, you have to be concerned enough to take the proper action.

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