Mastoiditis is a rare condition affecting the bone behind the ear. It can be serious and cause significant problems for the sufferer. The ailment occurs more often in children although it does also affect adults. The mastoid has a honeycomb-like structure with cells full of air which communicate with the air space of the middle ear. Chronic inflammation of the middle ear can cause mastoiditis. This can lead to the bone in the mastoid breaking down.
Symptoms may be mild and the diagnosis often goes undetected for some time. They include redness, tenderness and soreness behind the ear. There may also be swelling behind the ear leading to it protruding. The ear may discharge and the patient may have a fever and be tired and irritable. Deafness, headaches and itching may also occur.
If you or your child has any of these symptoms you must visit your GP. You should also seek medical advice if one of you has an ear infection which doesn't settle down or have new symptoms after an ear infection.
Mastoiditis often occurs after an inadequately controlled middle ear infection. It can also occur secondary to a cholesteatoma. Your GP will examine your ear with an otoscope and look for signs of middle ear infection or a cholesteatoma. If they think you may have a chronic middle ear infection or mastoiditis they will consider sending you to an Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon. Sometimes a detailed CT scan is required to make the diagnosis.
If the condition is diagnosed then you may need an operation to remove the infected cells. An anaesthetist will put you to sleep then the surgeon will clean the area behind your ear to sterilize it. They will then make a cut in the skin overlying the mastoid bone. They will cut into the bone and remove the damaged air cells. The skin will be closed up and the anaesthetist will allow you to wake up.
More posts on ear conditions are available here.
Dr Toby Bateson for ZenPlugs Ltd