Outer ear infections usually begin with mild itching and a feeling of discomfort. This can progress rapidly resulting in severe pain, swelling of the ear canal and blockage. Sometimes there can be discharge which can have a pungent sweet odour. If untreated it can spread to involve the pinna and cheek.
With an outer ear infection pressing the tragus (the pointy bit in front of the ear canal) is painful.
This is in contrast to a middle ear infection where the pain is deep in the ear but there is no discomfort on touching the actual ear.
Patients with diabetes are at risk of a particularly aggressive form of otitis externa (malignant otitis externa) and should be treated urgently