Experiencing ear pain or drainage? It may be from a growth in your ear. Skin growing in your ear in a place it should not, in the middle section of your ear behind the eardrum, is what’s known as a cholesteatoma. You can be born with one, or they can develop later in life. They are not cancerous and treatable. Here's some more information about this condition you may have never heard of.
How Does A Cholesteatoma Form?
If you are not born with one, a cholesteatoma forms from perforations in the eardrum or from repeated infections. It can also be caused by a Eustachian tube that isn’t working properly usually because of infections, allergies or colds. When this happens, the eardrum may get sucked inwards by a vacuum in the middle ear (space behind the ear drum). This forms a pouch or sack of the eardrum. The eardrum is covered by skin and if it’s pulled backwards forming a sack, the skin that’s shed by the eardrum surface accumulates in the sack. As the accumulation increases the sack enlarges creating a cholesteatoma.
Symptoms of A Cholesteatoma
The symptoms of a cholesteatoma may be any of the following:
- Ear pain
- Hearing loss
- Recurring ear drainage
- Ear fullness
- Facial weakness or paralysis.
Any of the above symptoms should prompt a visit to an ear, nose and throat specialist for evaluation.
Are Cholesteatoma Dangerous?
As the cholesteatoma grows, it can cause damage to the bones of hearing that are in the middle ear. A cholesteatoma eventually pushes its way into the mastoid bone and can even break into the brain cavity.
The facial nerve that runs through the middle ear and mastoid may also be damaged by the growth of the cholesteatoma. This can cause a paralysis of the face.
Frequently one has drainage repeatedly from an ear with a cholesteatoma before serious complications occur. Dizziness can also occur due to damage to the balance structures in the inner ear.
How Do You Treat A Cholesteatoma?
Treatment of a cholesteatoma can vary. The sack may be cleaned periodically through the ear canal by an ear, nose and throat specialist if the sack opening is accessible. Otherwise, a surgical procedure to remove the sack may be necessary. If surgery is needed, the hearing damage caused by the cholesteatoma may be treatable at the same time or as a secondary procedure. The primary purpose of the surgery, however, is to remove the cholesteatoma before serious complications occur.
If you’re suffering from one of the above symptoms suspect a cholesteatoma, contact an ear, nose and throat specialist. At ASC, our ENT specialists will discuss how we can best help you. We have offices in Ridgefield, Danbury, New Milford, and Norwalk in Fairfield County, CT.