Mastoid Diseases

Written by megan allyce snider
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The mastoid is a bone that makes up part of the posterior part of the temporal bone. It is located directly behind the ear. The mastoid may become inflamed or infected due to a perforation in the ear or an infection. Disorders affecting the mastoid usually have noticeable symptoms because the disorders may spread from the bone to other areas, causing growths in the inner ear, complications in hearing or ringing in the ears, and problems with balance. There are several disorders and infections associated with the mastoid which must be treated medically to ensure that they do not worsen with time.

Mastoid Diseases
("Head case" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: bobster855 (Bob Bobster) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Mastoid Infection or Mastoiditis

Mastoiditis is an infection of the mastoid bone of the skull, which is located just behind the ear. Symptoms include drainage from the ear, ear pain and discomfort, a fever that may suddenly increase, headache, hearing loss, redness of the ear canal or behind the ear, or swelling of the ear, which may cause the ear to stick out. Mastoiditis is difficult to treat because antibiotics may not be able to penetrate deep enough into the ear to reach the mastoid bone. It may require long-term or repetitive medication. The medication may be injected into the ear or taken orally.


The mastoid connects to the middle ear and, in a healthy ear, it is filled with air. In most cases of cholesteatoma, the mastoid is filled with irritated mucus membranes and a cholesteatmoa, which is a pearl-shaped benign tumor that usually grows into the mastoid bone. The cholesteatmoa is created by skin growing into a perforation of the ear drum. Cholesteatmoas can also grow and erode the inner ear and brain. Chronic infections of the mastoid cavity are usual with the presence of a cholesteatoma. In most of these cases antibiotics may no longer work to fight off the infection. A mastoidectomy--a surgical procedure done to eliminate chronic mastoiditis and obliterate any growths--may be necessary to cure this disorder.

Sternocleidomastoid Muscle Headaches

The sternocleidomastoid, or SCM, is a muscle that passes down from the mastoid and fits into the collar bone and sternum. The section of the SCM that passes into the collar bone is called the clavicular part, while the section that passes into the sternum is the sternal part. Pain features of this condition include whiplash-like injury, forehead, ear, cheek and throat pain, loss of coordination, runny nose, watery eyes, dizziness and headaches--pressure felt on the top of the head, or pain in the eyes, cheeks or throat.

Otitis Media and Mastoiditis

Otitis media can be due to a complication of a mastoidectomy. Otitis media is simply an inflammation of the inner ear. Bacteria, infections, fungi or perforations in the ear may all cause otitis media. Chronic otitis media is associated with a chronically draining ear, cholesteatoma and mastoiditis. It is typically treated with oral antibiotics.


The mastoid is a very important bone, playing an important role with the functioning of the ears, balance and hearing. Any suspected disorder of the mastoid should be investigated by a medical professional to eliminate the possibility of further inflammation, infection or complications. Early diagnosis and treatment may also lessen the need to perform a mastoidectomy. Mastoid disorders may also develop into other problems such as otitis media or SCM muscle headaches, and it is important to treat the infected mastoid area before these complications have a chance to occur.

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