A cholesteatoma is a noncancerous skin growth made up of squamous epithelium cells. It develops in the middle of the ear, behind the eardrum. The cholesteatoma is a skin-lined cyst composed of trapped living and dead skin cells and other debris. The dead skin cells accumulate in and around the living tissue inside the cyst. As the cyst grows, the structures of the middle ear are damaged. If this condition is not treated, it eventually results in hearing loss, vertigo, and even facial muscle paralysis.
At first, symptoms of cholesteatomas are usually mild. Hearing loss and ear pain are the most common initial symptoms. Cholesteatomas grow in only one ear, so symptoms are limited to that ear and the corresponding side of the face. Mild drainage or increased ear wax secretions may develop as well. A doctor examining the ear during early stages may observe skin cell deposits or masses of blood vessels.
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