Cholesteatoma is an abnormal skin growth in the middle ear behind the eardrum that may also affect the mastoid (skull bone). It begins as a cyst that gradually increases in size, destroying the bones of the middle ear and causing hearing loss.
What Causes Cholesteatoma?
When the Eustachian tube is functioning normally, it equalizes ear pressure by moving air from the back of the nose into the middle ear. Allergies and viruses can affect its performance, leading to a partial vacuum in the ear.
This negative pressure stretches the eardrum, creating a pocket or cyst that fills with old skin cells and waste material (the cholesteatoma) and can become easily infected. In rare cases, cholesteatoma can be present at birth.
What Are the Symptoms of Cholesteatoma?
Symptoms of cholesteatoma include drainage from the ear, a feeling of fullness, hearing loss, earache and dizziness. Since these are also present in other conditions, a work up including a CT scan, hearing and balance testing may be recommended to rule out other conditions and confirm the diagnosis. Cholesteatomas continue to grow if not treated and can lead to complications such as:
- Facial paralysis
- Brain abscess
How Is Cholesteatoma Treated?
An otolaryngologist will determine the size and growth rate of the cholesteatoma and recommend treatment based on these findings. Controlling the infection with antibiotics or eardrops is a crucial first step.
If you have a large cholesteatoma, it may require surgical removal in order to eliminate the infection and prevent further damage to the surrounding structures. This is performed under general anesthesia and on an outpatient basis. Follow-up surgery to ensure the cholesteatoma is gone and/or to reconstruct damaged middle ear bones may be necessary.
Call DeFatta ENT & Allergy at (715) 828-2368 for more information or to schedule an appointment.