Inflammation and infection occurring in mastoid bone is known as mastoiditis. The mastoid bone is a part of temporal bone of skull which is located behind the ear. Unlike the hard structure of other bones, mastoid bone contains tiny air spaces which give it a honeycomb appearance. It is like a sponge.
In majority of cases mastoiditis is caused due to spread of infection from middle ear. Although mastoiditis is more common in children, adults can also suffer from this condition. Recurrent middle ear infection also known as otitis media can lead to mastoiditis. The condition can be acute and chronic.
Mastoiditis is not common in adults but when it occurs, the condition can cause pain behind the ear and if left untreated it can result in hearing loss.
What Causes Mastoiditis In Adults?
In majority of cases mastoiditis occurs due to infection in middle ear, which is also called acute otitis media. The causative organisms responsible for infection are gram positive bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus, streptoccocus pyogenes, etc. Mastoiditis is rarely caused by gram negative bacteria. The infection from middle ear can spread into the tiny air cells of mastoid bone.
Mastoiditis can also develop as a result of cholesteotoma, a skin tumor in the middle ear which blocks the fluid drainage and thus destructs the honeycomb structure of mastoid bone.
Perforation of eardrum can lead to infection in the middle ear which in turn can cause mastoiditis. In adults this problem is common. Eardrum can perforate due to several reasons; traumatic injury to the ear is leading cause for perforation. In severe cases mastoiditis can lead to hearing loss, brain abscess, meningitis, facial nerve paralysis, vertigo etc.
Mastoiditis Symptoms In Adults
Severe pain in bone behind the ear is first symptom which almost all patients with mastoiditis complain of. The skin over the mastoid bone area is red and tender to touch. On examination the physician finds swollen eardrum. There is a history of purulent discharge from the affected ear. The discharge is thick and often mixed with blood.
In case of acute mastoiditis patient may complain of low grade fever associated with headache. Vertigo is common in chronic cases of mastoiditis. Also patient may complain loss of hearing if the problem persists for long duration. In case if the condition remains untreated for long duration, there is associated risk of complications ranging from facial nerve palsy to serious brain disease such as meningitis.
Treatment Options For Mastoiditis In Adults
Although the symptoms are indicative of mastoiditis, it is important to perform certain diagnostic tests such as MRI or CT scan and X-ray of mastoid process. This helps the physician to know the extent of damage caused to the mastoid bone. He can plan the treatment accordingly.
- A broad spectrum antibiotic is prescribed to control the infection. Since oral antibiotics may not be able to reach deep inside the infected air cells of mastoid bone, often intravenous antibiotics are recommended by physician. It is given under supervision of a doctor.
- If antibiotics fail to cure chronic mastoiditis, the other option left for the physician is surgery of mastoid process. This surgery is called mastoidectomy. In this surgery, the infected bony part of mastoid is removed and the area thoroughly drained. Surgical intervention prevents spread of infection to facial nerve and in the brain. It also helps to reverse the hearing loss.
- If the infection is mild and chronic, homeopathic medicines are useful in treating the condition. The medicines are selected on symptoms, extent of damage and tests. Homeopathic medicines such as merc sol, merc iod, kali iod, tuberculinum are useful in chronic cases of mastoiditis.
- Patient should also take certain precautions such as use of ear plugs while taking shower. It prevents water to enter in the ear canal.
- Patient should boost his immunity by eating healthy nutritious diet. Also he should not smoke or drink alcohol.