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OME; Secretory otitis media; Serous otitis media; Silent otitis media; Silent ear infection; Glue ear
Otitis media with effusion (OME) is when there is thick or sticky fluid behind the eardrum in the middle ear, but there is no ear infection.
The Eustachian tube connects the inside of the ear to the back of the throat. This tube helps drain fluids to prevent them from building up in the ear. The fluids drain from the tube and are swallowed.
Otitis media with effusion (OME) and ear infections are connected in two ways:
The following can cause swelling of the lining of the Eustachian tube, leading to increased fluid:
The following can cause the Eustachian tube to close or become blocked:
Getting water in a baby's ears will not lead to a blocked tube.
OME is most common in winter or early spring, but it can occur at any time of year. It can affect people of any age, although it occurs most often in children under age 2. (It is rare in newborns.)
Younger children get OME more often than older children or adults for several reasons:
The fluid in OME is often thin and watery. It used to be thought that the longer the fluid was present, the thicker it became. ("Glue ear" is a common name given to OME with thick fluid.) However, it is now believed that the thickness of the fluid has more to do with the particular ear than with how long the fluid is present.
American Academy of Family Physicians; American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery; American Academy of Pediatrics Subcommittee on Otitis Media With Effusion. Otitis media with effusion. Pediatrics. 2004;113:1412-1429.
Paradise JL, Feldman HM, Campbell TF, Dollaghan CA, Rockette HE, Pitcairn DL, et al. Tympanostomy tubes and developmental outcomes at 9 to 11 years of age. N Engl J Med. 2007;356:248-261.
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