Mastoiditis-Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors and Prevention

Mastoiditis is a bacterial infection of the mastoid air cells near the middle and inner ear. The mastoid bone, packed with these air cells, is part of the skull’s temporal bone. It is assumed that the mastoid air cells protect the fragile ear structures, control the ear pressure and probably protect the temporal bone during trauma.

Mastoiditis can grow when the mastoid cells are infected or inflamed, sometimes as a consequence of an unresolved middle ear infection (otitis media). Because so many important structures pass through the mastoid, the infection can spread beyond the mastoid bone and cause serious complications to the health.

Usually, acute mastoiditis affects children but it can also affect adults.

Many people have chronic mastoiditis, a recurrent middle ear infection and a mastoid that triggers constant ear drainage.

What are the symptoms of Mastoiditis?

The symptoms of mastoiditis include:

  • Redness and swelling at the back of the ear or of the ear lobe
  • Tenderness/pain of the mastoid bone
  • Fever
  • Tiredness and irritability
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Headache
  • Hearing loss in the affected ear

The signs, along with swelling behind the ear, are also close to those of the otitis media. Mastoiditis complications can include nausea, vomiting, abscesses in the brain and facial paralysis.

When to seek medical attention

When you have mastoiditis signs, contact your health-care provider.

Also call if:

  • Your symptoms do not respond to treatment.
  • You have an ear infection that does not respond to the treatment, or new symptoms follow.


The most common cause of mastoiditis is Ear infections.

The bacteria will spread when a person is not receiving antibiotics for mastoiditis. If human avoid taking antibiotics too early, this can also spread the infection.

Some people may develop antibiotic-resistant infections which even spread with antibiotic therapy.

A person may have an anomalous growth of the skin cells in the middle ear called a cholesteatoma, less commonly.

This growth in the skin can cause ear blockage that allows bacteria to multiply, causing mastoiditis. Cholesteatomas can also cause ear polyps, which can cause more obstruction.

Risk factors for Mastoiditis

Common Risk Factors

Risk factors for mastoiditis are associated with risk factors associated with acute otitis media.

Risk factors for acute mastoiditis

  • Allergy
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Snoring
  • Previous history of acute otitis media
  • Passive smoker
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Low social status

Risk factors for subacute mastoiditis

  • Infancy
  • Elderly
  • Diabetic
  • Immunosuppressed and debilitated patients

Less Common Risk Factors

A controversial risk factor is the exposure of infants to day-care centers. Daycare attendance may cause an increased incidence of upper respiratory infections and acute otitis media and therefore, mastoiditis. Countries with variations in the age of starting a day-care have shown differences in incidence peaks of acute otitis media.

Complications associated with mastoiditis

Mastoiditis care can be difficult, as the mastoid bone is deep within your body. Serious health problems will occur if care is not successful or if the infection is not treated until the mastoid is weakened. These health problems include:

  • vertigo, or dizziness
  • facial paralysis
  • hearing loss
  • meningitis, a bacterial infection of the membranes covering your brain and spinal cord
  • epidural abscess, a collection of pus on the outside of your brain and spinal cord
  • A blood clot
  • Sepsis, the spread of the infection all over your body

Can Mastoiditis be prevented?

The best way to avoid mastoiditis is to prevent infections of the ear (otitis media) and to treat any infection of the ear that you have with antibiotics.

Ways to prevent acute middle ear infections include:

  • Wash hands frequently to prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses.
  • Keep children away from secondhand smoke. Studies have shown that children with smokers have more ear infections than non-smoking children.
  • Be sure your child gets the flu vaccine yearly. Vaccinated children get fewer ear infections than non-vaccinated children.
  • Limit your child’s exposure to other children who have a cold or the flu.

Last words…

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