Cholesteatoma

Cholesteatoma is the name given to a collection of skin cells deep in the ear that form a pearly-white greasy-looking lump deep in the ear, right up in the top of the eardrum (the tympanic membrane).

What causes it?

A cholesteatoma is rare. The truthful answer to what causes it, is 'we don't really know'. Skin cells from the lining of the ear canal seem to get trapped in the middle ear (which doesn't normally contain skin cells).

Skin cells, including those that line the ear canal, normally multiply regularly to replace those that have died. Usually these skin cells just flake off.

The dead cells are trapped too and build up. This build-up of dead skin cells over time is what forms the cholesteatoma.

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Author:
Dr Oliver Starr
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
13267 (v4)
Last Checked:
09 May 2017
Next Review:
29 June 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.