by Carol Gomes

A skin growth that occurs in the middle ear behind the eardrum is known as cholesteatoma. The occurrence of cholesteatoma commonly is the result of repeated or chronic ear infection. In rare cases, it could be a congenital condition. Cholesteatoma takes the form of a cyst or pouch that keeps shedding old skin and other debris build-up inside the ear. Over a period of time, the cholesteatoma increases in size and has the potential to destroy the delicate bones surrounding the middle ear. Hearing loss, facial paralysis and dizziness are some of the effects of continued cholesteatoma growth.

A primary cause for the occurrence of cholesteatoma is long-term swelling in the Eustachian tube leading to negative pressure in the middle ear. This puts pressure on a part of the eardrum (tympanic membrane) in the wrong way, resulting in the formation of a sac or cyst that fills up with old skin cells and other debris. This cyst could become infected leading to further problems.

The following are some of the symptoms of cholesteatoma

  1. Drainage from the ear, often accompanied by foul odor.
  2. As the cholesteatoma cyst swells, it could create a feeling of pressure in the ear accompanied by hearing loss. This could be characterized by an ache behind the ear that causes discomfort.
  3. Dizziness and or muscle weakness on one side of the face could also occur.
  4. Any of the above mentioned symptoms should call for a medical evaluation for a cholesteatoma.

Cholesteatomas require medical treatment as quickly as possible. Damage to the bones of the middle ear can cause the infection to spread into the surrounding areas, including inner ear and brain. Cholesteatomas if left untreated could result in complete hearing loss, brain abscess, meningitis and in rare cases, death.

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