I've had an excruciatingly painful ear ache for a week - anti biotics don't work.

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I've had an extremely painful ear for 5 days. Basically I started feeling pain a week ago. The first day was fine and I could cope. The second day was when things became so sore in such a short space of time. I made an emergency appointment with a doctor and he looked in my ear canal, and all he could see was pus and wax. So he gave me anti biotics. I took them as advised 3 times a day, but to no avail. The pain in unbelievable. My condition only got worse over time. The pain was like a hammer hitting my ear, and then sudden sharp pains as if a knife was scraping the inside of my ear sometimes. I'm relatively tough and can take pain, but this was just too much pain for me to keep on working. So I left work early yesterday. and phoned in sick today. Bear in mind I get no sick pay. Not only am I worried that I wont get money, but my condition is worsening day by day. My ear is all swollen up, and it feels like its on fire. Its also as if there is another heart beating in my ear, and every time it beats, pain is excruciating. Sometimes it feels like someone shoving metal objects in my ear and its so unbearable. I will have to take another day off work tomorrow. that'll be 24 hours of work in the week sacrificed. I also can't play football or do anything physical as its just too much pain for me to take. Any suggestions on what I can do?

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  • Posted

    Sorry about your pain.Antibiotics don't always work instantly and what ever is wromg with your ear may not be sensitive to that anti biotic.Your sensible thing to do is to return to your Dr.He won't know that his treatment didn't work unless you tell him.

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  • Posted

    It would be helpful to know your age and whether you have diabetes.  Your severe pain makes it most likely that you have infection of your ear canal, called external otitis.  It is the most painful type of ear infection.  General doctors can be VERY disappointing when it comes to diagnosing and/or treating ear disease.  The most common mistake they make is to give oral antibiotics for external otitis, and often no pain meds.  What you need is antibiotic ear drops, which deliver much more antibiotic to the infected site and avoid treating areas of your body that are not involved.  (Makes sense, huh?)

    Cortisporin otic suspension,  5 drops 4 times a day for 5 days, or

    Ciprodex otic suspension, 5 drops twice a day for 5 days, or

    Cipro HC otic suspension, 5 drops twice a day for 5 days.

    Cortisporin is the cheapest and works equally as well as the other two.  It does contain neomycin, to which about 1-2% of people are allergic.  You also need narcotic pain medication, if you want complete pain relief.  Application of heat sometimes provides some relief.

    Two caveats:

    1.  If your ear canal is swollen closed, the drops will not enter it and will not work well.  In this case, you need to place a "wick' of cotton inside the swollen, infected part, to carry the drops well into the canal.  The general docs are not always adept at this, and you will most likely get better results from an ENT doc.  You may think, "Oh no, those expensive specialists," but how expensive has missing a week of work and sleep been?  

    2.  If you are older and have diabetes, this type of infection can involve the bones of the skull and be very serious, even life-threatening, and you would require IV antibiotics.  If you don't have diabetes, it only requires the antibiotic drops and analgesics.

    Do not return to the doctor who gave you oral antibiotics.  If he knew how to treat this problem, you would already be well!  Multiple studies show that for ear problems, general docs make the wrong diagnosis and/or give the wrong treatment more than 60% of the time!

     Ciprodex is outrageously expensive if you have no insurance, and many insurances don't cover it.  The other two work equally as well as Ciprodex.  

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    • Posted

      Thank you for your explanation.

      Sometimes I am very pleased that I am in the UK.For all its' flaws we do have the opportunity to get to the correct consultant without incurring large sums of money.I for one owe my life to NHS care.

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    • Posted

      Despite your reportedly good experience with the UK health system, I am certainly not a proponent of socialized health care.  My brother lives in Canada.  He had a biopsy on his nose 7 weeks ago and just got the results last week.  In the USA it takes 24 to 48 hours in most locations.  Why?  Because there is NO COMPETITION in Canada, therefore no motivation to do things in a timely way.  The wait in Canada for seeing a specialist is routinely 3-4 months, for the same reason:  NO COMPETITION.  The wait list for joint replacement surgery is more than a year.  Why?  You guessed it.  NO COMPETITION.

      Every time I read or hear about a political election in the UK, improving the quality of the NHS is always one of the central issues.  Wonder why that is?  Maybe because there's NO COMPETITION?

      As for the expense of a specialist versus a generalist, the specialist is more often than not the cheaper of the two, once you consider the wasted money on the wrong medication and/or unnecessary medication, and unnecessary expensive tests that are not ordered by a physician who already knows the diagnosis.  Then there's the unnecessary time off work, and possible prolonged suffering and worry.  No, the most economical physician is one who arrives at the correct diagnosis and treatment in a timely way. The widespread notion that generalists are cheaper is totally false.  I am speaking from 40 years of experience in ENT.  My colleagues in other specialties all tell me it is no different with their specialty.

      Lastly, there is no free health care, just as there is no free car care or lawn care or child care.  The NHS in the UK is paid for by higher taxes.  In Ontario, Canada there is at least a 13% sales tax on everything.  And oh, by the way, there is NO private medicine in Canada, so you have no alternative to the governmental monopoly.  

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    • Posted

      Canada and UK health systems don't equate.I have lived in both countries.

      I have never waited months for results in UK.I have received timely up to date treatment in world renowned hospitals when necessary.

      The NHS needs drastic reorganisation but the original intent remains sound .

      I don't wish to debate health care in various countries,each to their own.

      I am not a socialist.

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    • Posted

      Thanks for the great advice. I appreciate the info. I went to the doctors yesterday and like you said was given more oral anti biotics of a different kind. Also some Ibuprfen and some painkillers. This didn't make me feel like things would be getting better as I sit here now I feel just as bad as last week. I'll be getting ear drops in 3 -4 days if this doesn't work and everything you recommend will be taken seriously. Many thanks. I'll let you know how I get on.


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    • Posted

      Of course, the natural history of this disease is that left untreated (which is your case), it resolves on its own after 1-3 weeks, depending on the severity it reaches.  Before antibiotics were available (pre-1935), people survived external otitis.  The only real question is how much you want to suffer while it is resolving.  As far as I can tell, the thought and time I put into addressing your problem was completely wasted.  Go figure....
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  • Posted

    It kind of sounds like you have some sort of ear problem. Some pain is normal, but pain like you are describing isn't.

    Have you been on a plane recently or been around some loud noise(s)? I would think it is a perforated ear but unfortunately for that to be diagnosed your ear would have to be cleared.

    Keep going back to the doctors if it doesn't appear to be getting any better. They'll eventually refer you to the hospital and they have more knowledge and better equipment there. This only may apply to the UK though.

    If you're getting a lot of leaking, then that further suggests a perforated ear. When mine first became problematic, it started one day and then lasted for months. Lots of pain too. It was just out of the blue, but unlike you I had little pain tolerance as I was always a skinny thing that got sick a fair bit with various infections, so it was hard to fight against them.

    Let us know what happens.

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    • Posted

      Thanks Evamore, I went to the docs and he prescribed me with more oral anti-biotics. I still feel just as bad as last week, but tonight I have to work regardless of my pain because I get no sick pay in my type of job. I'll let you know how I get on though and thanks for the heads up.

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