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What is Bullous Myringitis?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Bullous myringitis is a painful condition characterized by middle ear inflammation and oozing blisters on the eardrum. It typically arises as a secondary complication of a bacterial or viral infection. A person who has bullous myringitis is likely to experience radiating pain and some degree of hearing loss over the course of about two days as a blister develops. It is important to seek medical care at an emergency room or otolaryngologist's office at the first signs of ear pain to receive the appropriate treatment.

The eardrum, or tympanic membrane, forms a barrier between the middle and outer ear. It helps to relay sound waves to the brain and prevent foreign particles from irritating the middle ear. When a bacterium or virus pervades the eardrum, it causes an inflammatory response that leads to swelling, itching, and burning sensations in the ear. The most common causes of bullous myringitis are the bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Staphylococcus aureus, though several other bacteria and viruses can potentially cause ear infections.

Bullous myringitis occurs when middle ear inflammation leads to the development of a small pus-filled blister on the tympanic membrane. As a blister grows, an individual is likely to experience constant, sharp pain that disrupts hearing. The sore may ooze yellow or white pus that drains from the ear. Painful sensations and drainage typically persist for the life of a blister, usually one to two days. The infection responsible for bullous myringitis may continue to cause symptoms after the ear pain stops.

A doctor can usually diagnose bullous myringitis by evaluating symptoms and examining the eardrum with a medical instrument called an otoscope. He or she may collect a small sample of pus from the blister to test for specific bacteria. After making a diagnosis, the doctor cleans and drains the ear to clear lingering bacteria and help prevent further irritation.

Treatment for bullous myringitis usually includes a course of anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics. A patient may also be prescribed ear drops that help to cleanse the eardrum and soothe painful burning. In most cases, symptoms are quickly relieved with medical treatment. Since ear infections can be contagious, patients are generally instructed to wash their hands frequently and avoid close contact with others until symptoms resolve.

Surgery is rarely needed to treat an ear infection, but a simple operation may be required if the eardrum tears. A surgeon can perform a procedure called a myringoplasty to mend a perforated eardrum and remove dirt, bacteria, and other irritating agents from deep within the ear. The procedure has a high success rate, and most patients start feeling better within about a week.

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Discussion Comments
By anon998868 — On Sep 09, 2017

Bullous myringitis is really painful. My blister popped at 2300 feet driving over a mountain pass. It didn't really start hurting till the next day. I was at the ER twice because I could not deal with the pain.

By anon997823 — On Mar 05, 2017

I was diagnosed with bullous myringitis. I was also diagnosed with strep throat. The initial illness came on quickly with sore throat, body aches and fever, and 24 hours later I had a feeling like there was fluid in my left ear and severe ear pain. The pain was like a tooth abscess. The severe pain went away 24 hours after starting Keflex antibiotics (I am allergic to many other types). I had continued discomfort and very annoying stuffed ear with hearing loss at two weeks. When will this end and my hearing return?

By anon991973 — On Aug 02, 2015

I have been suffering from the worst pain I've ever felt in my life for the last four days. I visited an ENT specialist two days back and I've been diagnosed to have bullous myringitis. I've been on an antibiotic and analgesic treatment since then. Can someone tell me how long will it take to get rid of the pain? Please help!

By anon954462 — On Jun 01, 2014

Has anyone had persistent feeling of pressure in the ear and stuffiness/underwater feeling after the fluid has drained? I am four weeks post infection and the doctor says the fluid is gone and my hearing is testing good, although I feel like I am still underwater with my one ear. It is really annoying and driving me crazy.

By anon341136 — On Jul 08, 2013

I was diagnosed with bullous myringitis today. I've been sick for several days now, and was worried it was something worse. I'm on day four of antibiotics, which have kind of been helping, but I'm just glad to know what was wrong with me.

My ear did bleed a couple times and that's what made me worried most. I'm in lots of pain and having a hard time hearing, but I will get better. It's odd because I've been getting ear infections since I was little but have never experienced this. Keep your heads up, everyone!

By anon334200 — On May 10, 2013

My nine year old daughter was diagnosed with Bullous Myringitis yesterday and she is in so much pain. er fever started low grade but now is spiking to 102 and the pain seems to be getting worse. After reading everyone's comments, I believe I will be taking her to the ER tonight.

By anon325354 — On Mar 15, 2013

I had bullous myringitis in late December. I went to a walk-in clinic in unbearable pain. The doctor told me it was just an outer ear infection (swimmer's ear) and sent me home with some drops. The pain intensified and then got better, but my ear remained plugged. I saw my family doctor, and she made a specialist appointment for me.

Six weeks after the initial pain, I saw the ENT specialist. He diagnosed what the problem was, and explained that the plugged feeling and itching in my ear was caused by all of the dead tissue that remained in my ear.

I sat for 20 minutes as the doctor removed all of the dead tissue from my ear.

All I can say, is I was in the most pain I have ever been in with bullous myringitis.

By anon318098 — On Feb 05, 2013

I was just diagnosed and I concur with pain being unbearable. Holy cow! I have had a lot of pain and discomfort from other ailments but this one takes the cake. If you have this, be sure to get the right antibiotics, ear drops and pain medicine as needed.

By anon304731 — On Nov 21, 2012

I have to agree the pain is like labor pains. I have had this bollous several times in my life. The pain can last from half an hour to several hours until the pressure is released on its own. Then I get relief when it "pops' and a lot of blood and fluid is released. At that time I have been told I need a antibiotic to help with the infection.

By anon303354 — On Nov 14, 2012

My four year old son was just diagnosed with bullous myringitis. The pain was mild, and he was just complaining, nothing like anon293071 and anon245789 describe, but maybe the infection was just in the beginning.

By anon293071 — On Sep 24, 2012

I agree with anon245789. The pain is second only to serious labor pains. If your child has it, I would think you would know. I could do nothing but scream for 20 minutes. It was terrible.

By anon245789 — On Feb 06, 2012

@Domido: I am an adult recovering from bullous myringitis. It has been one of the most painful conditions I have ever experienced (and I have had three children).

I believe it would be safe to assume that your child would give indication through a high-pitched cry. After the second day or so, the ears will be draining blood and pus which is another sure-fire indication that the child should be seen. Good luck to you. I'm sure your children are in great hands.

By anon237965 — On Jan 01, 2012

That thing is seriously aching. I had it last year, the pain is unbearable. My body felt paralyzed due to pain in the first thirty minutes when first sensing the pain, in my case it wasn't puss coming out of the ear, it as blood. you would know it your child has it because it is the most painful thing ever.

By Eviemae — On May 13, 2011

@Domido – Hi, there! I’m pretty sure that anyone facing something as painful as this would know it was time to get that child to a doctor, and fast.

Fluid in the ear can hurt, of course, but I think this is much more severe and there is also the hearing loss to indicate it.

It’s actually not a bad thing that you don’t rush your kids to the doctor for every sniffle, because often these things do indeed clear up on their own. I always found that when I took my own kids to the doctor for something minor, they ended up leaving with something worse!

By paying special attention and keeping track of fevers and such, you should be okay.

By Domido — On May 11, 2011

I have a four year old daughter and a 23 month old son who are plagued with ear infections from time to time. These have never been really serious, but mostly irritating.

How can the regular mom tell if a child is experiencing the classic signs of a plain old ear infection or this type of more serious infection?

Since it isn’t uncommon for a child to get over a mild ear infection on their own, I don’t always rush them to the doctor for antibiotics. We usually try home remedies first, which often work well.

The thoughts of bullous myringitis treatment being needed scares me to death, because I would never intentionally hurt either of my children, even through pure ignorance.

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