What is mastoiditis?

Mastoiditis is a type of ear infection that occurs in the mastoid bone, the portion of the skull behind the ear. The infection is typically the result of an untreated middle ear infection that spreads to this bone. It occurs most often in children and can have serious health risks if left untreated.

The area of ​​the ear behind the eardrum is known as the middle ear . It can become infected due to a variety of factors including bacteria, structure of the ear, or genetic predisposition. Middle ear infections are usually not serious and can be treated with antibiotics. If the infection is not treated or does not respond to antibiotics, it can move into the mastoid bone and cause mastoiditis.

Some of the symptoms of mastoiditis are the same as other types of ear infections, such as a sensitive ear or ear with blood, pus, or fluid leaking. Once the mastoid bone becomes infected, the area behind the ear may become red or swollen enough to cause the ears to protrude slightly forward. The infection can also cause a sudden high fever or headache.

Mastoiditis can get worse over time if it is not treated when symptoms start. A doctor will usually be able to diagnose the infection by examining the physical appearance of the inner and outer ear. He or she will usually feel a swollen mastoid bone behind the ear. A doctor may also perform an x-ray to check for inflammation of the mastoid bone or any other abnormalities of the inner ear. He or she may also collect a sample of any hearing loss and test it for bacteria.

Since mastoiditis is a bacterial infection, it requires antibiotic medications to treat and kill the bacteria. A doctor will usually give an antibiotic injection, followed by a dose of oral antibiotic. The infection often requires two forms of antibiotics because the bacteria is buried deep within the mastoid bone. Even with extensive antibiotic treatment, the infection may be too deep to be completely cured with one drug alone.

More severe cases of mastoiditis that do not respond to antibiotics can usually be treated surgically. A surgeon may remove a small portion of the mastoid bone to get to the source of the infection and drain any fluid. If any bacteria-filled fluid remains, the infection can continue to come back.

If mastoiditis is not treated, it can lead to deterioration of the mastoid bone or cause hearing loss. The bacteria can also spread from the bone and affect the facial muscles, resulting in facial paralysis. In some cases, it can cause meningitis, a life-threatening infection that occurs in the protective membranes that surround the brain.

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