Q My GP has referred me to ENT in case my ear discharge is a cholesteatoma. What is this?
AEar discharge is often due to infection of the skin lining the ear canal, usually after swimming or trauma (such as scratching). It can be very painful and affect hearing, but usually clears with antibiotic drops. However, the discharge can make it difficult to see the eardrum, and may even be coming through a hole (perforated eardrum) produced by a middle-ear infection. As well as ear pain, discharge and deafness, middle-ear infection can cause dizziness, tinnitus (noises) and facial numbness, or spread internally, causing serious complications including nerve damage, cholesteatoma and brain abscesses. In a cholesteatoma, skin and other cells grow inside the middle ear, leading to discharge, deafness and invasion of nearby tissues and bone. They may be triggered by pressure changes or infection.
Your GP can’t rule out these without tests, but the ENT specialist can use suction to clear the discharge so that they are able to look inside your ear. You may also need to have a CT scan. Cholesteatomas can usually be removed surgically but they’re rare, so you’ll probably be given the all clear.
A proper inspection is needed