Ear discharge

Definition

Ear discharge is drainage of blood, ear wax, pus, or fluid from the ear.

Causes

Most of the time, any fluid leaking out of an ear is ear wax.

A ruptured eardrum can cause a white, slightly bloody, or yellow discharge from the ear. Dry crusted material on a child's pillow is often a sign of a ruptured eardrum. The eardrum may also bleed.

Causes of a ruptured eardrum include:

Other causes of ear discharge include:

Home Care

Caring for ear discharge at home depends on the cause.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will perform a physical exam and look inside the ears. You may be asked questions, such as:

The provider may take a sample of the ear drainage and send it to a lab for examination.

The provider may recommend anti-inflammatory or antibiotic medicines, which are placed in the ear. Antibiotics may be given by mouth if a ruptured eardrum from an ear infection is causing the discharge.


Review Date: 5/17/2018
Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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