Understanding Mastoiditis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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MastoiditisAn ear infection in the outer or middle ear can be a difficult and painful condition to deal with. When it travels to the inner ear, the mastoid bone becomes inflamed and requires immediate treatment to avoid serious complications.

Mastoiditis can lead to damage of the facial nerve and the brain itself. We will look at mastoiditis causes and how it is diagnosed and medically treated. We also have home remedies to treat the accompanying pain.

What Is Mastoiditis?

Mastoiditis refers to a bacterial infection of the mastoid bone. The mastoid sits behind the ear, within the inner ear region, and helps drain the middle ear. It should be noted that the mastoid bone is actually a collection of air sacs, not the rigid structure of a bone. The mastoid is sponge-like in appearance.

Inflammation of the mastoid can occur when the middle ear, known as the otitis media, becomes infected. Some severe cases can see the infection spread from the mastoid and result in serious health complications. A chronic mastoiditis condition will result in constant ear discharge.

Acute and chronic mastoiditis can affect both adults and children, though it is more common in the latter. At one time, the infection was a leading cause of death in children. With the advancement of antibiotics, it is less prevalent today and does not pose as high a risk.

Mastoiditis Causes

A mastoid becomes inflamed from an untreated infection of the middle ear, known as an acute otitis media. As it spreads to the inner ear, the infection can cause the soft mastoid structure to collapse and break into fragments.

Symptoms of Mastoiditis

As the condition is caused by an infection of the middle ear, you may experience many of the same symptoms. Some of the mastoiditis symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Discharge
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Tenderness behind the ear
  • Headache
  • Hearing loss

Mastoiditis Complications

Complications of mastoiditis can affect other delicate parts of the body, including your brain. With the location of the mastoid, many serious health conditions can develop.

1. Brain Abscess

Mastoiditis can lead to the development of this condition with symptoms of intense headaches and papilledema, which is swelling behind the eyes.

2. Facial Paralysis

The infection can spread past the mastoid bone and affect the facial nerve. This can cause paralysis of function, which may resolve within several months after the initial infection is cured.

3. Lateral Sinus Thrombosis

This is a rare complication that presents with fever, vomiting, headaches, papilledema, diplopia, sixth nerve palsy, and seventh nerve palsy. Fluid will be also be present with the mastoiditis.

4. Labyrinthitis

An inner ear infection, this condition presents as three separate stages as serious, purulent, and ossificans. A mastoidectomy may be required.

5. Gradenigo’s Syndrome

Mastoiditis can lead to this condition with symptoms of eye pain, diplopia. Headache, nausea, dizziness, and sixth nerve palsy.

Mastoiditis Diagnosis

The diagnosis begins with a physical examination as you would have with any of the ear infection symptoms. Because the mastoid is located behind your middle ear, imaging and diagnostic testing are needed. This may include a white blood cell count, an ear culture, an X-ray of the skull, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, and even a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, further testing will be completed to see if the infection has spread into the spinal column. A lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, would need to be done.

Mastoiditis Treatment

Treating mastoiditis is imperative, as allowing the infection to fester and spread can cause irreversible problems and possibly life-threatening conditions. Medical treatment is needed to stop the infection. You may be treated with antibiotics, ear cleanings, and possibly surgery. The location can make it hard to treat, and a surgical procedure to remove a portion of the mastoid to drain it could be an option.

The pain associated with the inflammation can be severe, and there are home remedies to treat this and other symptoms while waiting to receive medical assistance.

  • Use mullein oil and warm the drops before placing in the ear.
  • Crush garlic cloves and heat with olive oil on low temperature for 30 minutes before placing a few drops in ear.
  • Clean the ear out with a mixture of chamomile and Calendula officinalis.
  • Create a solution of three drops of mild propolis extract and six drops of olive oil. Add this to the ear and lie down on the side of the good ear for 30 minutes. Switch sides and lie on the affected ear for 15 minutes. It is recommended to do this before bedtime and clean ear again with the chamomile and calendula mixture the next morning. Leave this in your ear all day.

Mastoiditis Prevention Tips

The best prevention method is treating ear infections with the first sign or symptom. If you are taking antibiotics, finish the medicine as directed—even if you are feeling better before the seven to 10-day treatment is complete. To prevent an ear infection, you could also try the following tips.

  • Use ear plugs when showering and swimming to avoid getting water into the ear canal.
  • Maintain a healthy immune system with a nutritious diet.
  • Take a teaspoon of plant-based sugar xylitol each day.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol use.
  • Avoid tobacco use.

Mastoiditis can be a difficult infection to treat as it is located deep within the ear, behind the middle ear. Any inflammation of the middle ear can spread quickly into the inner ear, and from there, can travel to the facial nerve or the brain. Mastoiditis can lead to complications of paralysis and a brain abscess. Medical assistance is required since severe cases can require removal of the mastoid. There are home remedies to treat the pain associated with this condition. The best advice is to take precautions to prevent all ear infections.


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Sources :
Hain, T., “Mastoiditis,” Dizziness And Balance, April 30, 2016; http://www.dizziness-and-balance.com/disorders/infections/mastoiditis.html, last accessed June 28, 2017.
“Mastoiditis,” Medline Plus; https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001034.htm, last accessed June 28, 2017.
“Mastoiditis in Adults Causes: Its Symptoms And Treatment Options,” Simple Remedies June 13, 2104; http://www.simple-remedies.com/muscle-joints-bone-disorders/mastoiditis-in-adults-causes-treatment.html, last accessed June 28, 2017.
“Natural Treatments For Mastoiditis,” My Natural Treatment, March 11, 2013; http://www.mynaturaltreatment.com/natural-treatment-for-mastoiditis/, last accessed June 28, 2017.
“How To Prevent Mastoiditis Infection In Ear & Treatment,” Home Remedies For You, December 4, 2007; http://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/askquestion/10803/alternative-cure-for-treating-mastoiditis-what-to-.html, last accessed June 28, 2017.

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