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Any kind of fluid that leaks from the ear is referred to as otorrhea. Various conditions can cause this fluid discharge. Depending upon the underlying cause, the kind of fluid from the ears will also vary.

The most common type of discharge is actually the wax that is built up inside the ear as a protective mechanism. Sometimes there can be an over production of this ear wax, which is oily in nature, and that leads to discharge from the ear.

Other more serious conditions in which this is seen are:

1. Infection

An infection of the ear results in the build up of fluid inside the ear, eventually leading to discharge. There will be other signs and symptoms that are associated with an ear infection like pain, swelling and dizziness.

A condition commonly referred to as Swimmer's ear is one where a bacterial or fungal infection can occur in the ear due to the presence of a large amount of moisture for large periods of time. It is thought that the wall of the ear canal break down under such conditions and can lead to a discharge from the ear.

An infection of the mastoid bone of the skull, called as Mastoiditis can also be responsible for an ear discharge. This bone is unlike other bones in the body as it is highly pneumatized. It has an anatomic connection with the Eustachian tube, which is usually the path the infection takes.

A middle ear infection which has been left untreated or is particularly aggressive can reach the mastoid bone and actually cause it to break down and disintegrate.

This condition is seen most commonly in children, although can be seen in adults also. If diagnosed, it is treated in a hospital set up as an emergency as it can be life threatening.

A clinical examination by an ENT surgeon will reveal the presence of an infection and should be treated with ear drops as well as a course of antibiotics.

2. Physical injury

The eardrum is one of the most sensitive parts of the body and almost anything from a pen to a cleaning q tip can cause it to rupture if enough pressure is applied. This tear could be extremely small in size, however should once again be easily visible on inspection by an ENT surgeon.

A trauma to the Head or a skull fracture can also be responsible for a CSF leak from the ear. This condition is a medical emergency and if suspected is treated without any delay whatsoever. Most often, people who have had such a severe trauma to the skull show symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, fainting spells and blurred vision.

There may be damage done to the brain although that is not always the case. Bleeding from the ears as well as the nose are also commonly seen in such cases.

X-Rays and MRI's of the head and neck will need to be done to confirm clinical findings as well as to ascertain what kind of skull fracture it is. The treatment for this can vary from pain control to surgery depending on various other factors.

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