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Health Encyclopedia

Health Encyclopedia

An invaluable resource of health information.

Cholesteatoma

Cholesteatoma is a type of skin cyst located in the middle ear.

  • Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Cholesteatoma can be a birth defect (congenital), but it more commonly occurs as a complication of chronic ear infection.

    Poor function in the eustachian tube leads to negative pressure in the middle ear. This pulls a part of the eardrum (tympanic membrane) the wrong way, creating a sac or cyst that fills with old skin cells and other waste material. The cyst becomes infected. The cyst may get bigger and break down some of the middle ear bones, affecting hearing.

  • Symptoms
  • Signs and tests

    An ear exam may show a pocket or perforation (opening) in the eardrum, often with drainage. The deposit of old skin cells may be visible with an otoscope, a special instrument to view the ear.

    The following tests may be performed to rule out other causes of dizziness.

  • Treatment

    Surgery is needed to remove the cyst.

  • Expectations (prognosis)

    Cholesteatomas usually continue to grow if not removed. Surgery usually works, but you may occasionally need the ear cleaned by a health care provider. Additional surgery may be needed if the cholesteatoma comes back.

  • Complications
  • Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if ear pain, drainage from the ear, or other symptoms occur or worsen, or if hearing loss occurs.

  • Prevention

    Prompt and complete treatment of chronic ear infection may help to prevent some cases of cholesteatoma.

  • References

    Smith JA, Danner CJ. Complications of chronic otitis media and cholesteatoma. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2006;39(6):1237-1255.

Review Date: 7/15/2008

Reviewed By: Alan Lipkin, MD, Otolargyngologist, private practice, Denver, CO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2014 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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