Mastoiditis is an uncommon bacterial infection of the mastoid bone located behind the ear. It is usually seen in children, although adults can also be affected. The mastoid bone has a honeycomb-like structure, it contains air spaces called mastoid cells, which help maintain the air space in the middle ear. Mastoiditis can develop when the mastoid cells become infected or inflamed, often as a result of a persistent middle ear infection as bacteria from the middle ear can travel into the air cells of the mastoid bone. Another cause is any abnormal collection of skin cells which prevent drainage of the ear and cause infection (Chlesteatoma)
Mastoiditis typically causes fever, irritability and tiredness, swelling behind the ear, redness /tenderness or pain behind the ear, a creamy discharge from the ear, headaches and a hearing loss. Most ear infections are due to an Otitis Media (middle ear infection). Mastoiditis is treated with antibiotics, sometimes surgery (Myringotomy) may be required to drain the ear and to have the infected mastoid bone removed. A small hole is made in the eardrum to drain the fluid and relieve pressure from inside your ear. A small tube may be inserted into the middle ear to provide ventilation and prevent fluid building up inside it. This tube will typically fall out naturally after 6-12 months. An operation to remove the infected mastoid bone is known as a mastoidectomy - this is only usually needed if the infection is severe.
With early antibiotic treatment, most people recover quickly with no complications however, treatment is not always easy and the condition may come back. It is important that any infected bone is removed thereby preventing further complications or the infection reaching the brain.