What is cholesteatoma?

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Cholesteatoma: Overview

A cholesteatoma (say “kuh-LESS-tee-uh-TOH-muh”) is a growth (cyst) inside your ear. The most common cause is a problem with the eustachian tube. Once the growth starts, it can keep growing and cause ear infections. You may feel pain and pressure in or near your ear. You also may have bad-smelling fluid that drains from your ear. You may lose hearing in that ear. Hearing may come back after the growth is removed.

Your doctor may do tests to find out the size and shape of the growth. Your doctor may clean your ear and prescribe antibiotics if you have an infection. In most cases, people have surgery to remove the growth. After surgery, you will need follow-up care to be sure the growth and infections don't come back.

How can you care for cholesteatoma in children?

  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Apply heat to the ear to ease pain. Use a warm washcloth. Be careful not to burn the skin around the ear. Your child's ear may have some drainage.
  • If you are going to have the growth removed, your doctor will give you instructions for your child's care before and after surgery.
  • Do not put anything into your child's ear canal. For example, do not use a cotton swab to clean the inside of your child's ear. It can damage the inner ear. If you think that your child has something inside the ear, ask your doctor to check it.

Cholesteatoma: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your pain gets worse.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Pus draining from the ear.
    • A fever.
  • The side of your face seems to sag.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You feel dizzy.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.