The most common cause of mastoiditis is an untreated inner ear infection (acute otitis media).
Less frequently, a condition called cholesteatoma can cause mastoiditis. Cholesteatoma is an abnormal growing collection of skin cells inside the ear that can prevent the ear from draining, which can lead to mastoiditis.
If mastoiditis is treated promptly with antibiotics, it can often be cured. In some people, the infection comes back and another course of antibiotics is required.
If the infection spreads, serious and even life-threatening complications can occur such as:
Kids under 5 years old are particularly at risk, especially following upper respiratory illnesses when ear infections often occur. A number of things can cause ear pain. Some of the most common include ear infections, airplane pressure, a perforated eardrum, excess earwax, and dental problems.
A doctor will do an examination of the ear canal with an otoscope to see inside the ear canal and visualize the eardrum (tympanic membrane) and structures within the middle ear if possible. Other tests may be ordered to confirm a diagnosis. These tests include:
Mastoiditis cannot be treated at home. It requires medical treatment as the infection can spread and cause serious complications. Most of the home treatments are aimed at reducing symptoms of an ear infection, which is the most common cause of mastoiditis.
Early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics is needed to avoid complications. In some cases, intravenous (IV) antibiotics in a hospital may be required.
If antibiotics alone do not cure the infection, surgery may be needed. A myringotomy may be performed to drain the middle ear, and in more serious cases a mastoidectomy may be needed to remove part of the infected mastoid bone.
The best way to prevent mastoiditis is to prevent ear infections (otitis media) and treat any ear infection you have with antibiotic therapy.
Ways to prevent acute middle ear infections include: