Diseases & Conditions

Acute Myringitis - Infectious Myringitis

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Infectious myringitis is an infection of the eardrum. The eardrum is a thin membrane that separates the outer ear from the inner ear.

What is going on in the body?

Infectious myringitis is an infection of the eardrum that usually follows a bacterial or viral ear infection. Vesicles, or small fluid-filled lesions, develop on the eardrum. The infection interferes with the normal function of the eardrum.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

Myringitis is generally caused by an infection with a bacteria or virus. Sometimes, the infection starts in the eardrum. Most of the time, however, myringitis follows an infection in another part of the ear. Acute otitis media and swimmer''s ear can both lead to secondary myringitis. Upper respiratory infections, such as the flu or pneumonia , can predispose someone to ear infections.

Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?

Symptoms of myringitis may include:

  • drainage from the ear
  • fever
  • hearing impairment
  • sudden onset of ear pain that lasts 24 to 48 hours

  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the disease diagnosed?

    Diagnosis of myringitis begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare provider will use an otoscope, or lighted instrument, to look at the person's eardrum.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the disease?

    Some helpful measures to reduce the risk of myringitis include:

  • avoiding prolonged immersion of the ear in water, such as a pool or hot tub
  • obtaining pneumonia and flu vaccines for children
  • staying away from individuals with an upper respiratory infection
  • washing hands often
  • What are the long-term effects of the disease?

    Most cases of myringitis go away without any long-term effects. In some cases, though, there may be scarring of the eardrum that can affect hearing. Or the eardrum may rupture.

    What are the risks to others?

    Some causes of myringitis are contagious and can be passed to others.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the disease?

    Treatment of infectious myringitis may include:

  • antibiotics
  • antibiotics together with steroid ear drops
  • ear drops that provide local anesthesia
  • over-the-counter or prescription pain medicine given by mouth
  • rupturing the vesicles on the eardrum with a myringotomy knife
  • What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Antibiotics and other medicines may cause allergic reactions, stomach upset, or rash.

    What happens after treatment for the disease?

    In most cases, the eardrum returns to normal after successful treatment.

    How is the disease monitored?

    If the pain does not resolve over a brief time, medical attention is needed. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.


    Author:Mark Loury, MD
    Date Written:
    Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
    Edit Date:09/30/01
    Reviewer:Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed:09/10/01