Sometimes small lumps appear on the back of our ears, causing discomfort or itching. Lumps behind the ear can be the result of inflammation or infection. In certain conditions like mastoiditis, middle ear infections or mumps, ear lumps are often associated with pain. In this article, you'll learn all there is to know about lumps behind the ear. If you'd like to find out more about your hearing health, please consult a hearing care professional at Miracle-Ear.
In most cases, lumps behind the ears are harmless. They are rarely a sign of a dangerous or life-threatening problem. Several conditions can cause knots, bumps, or lumps behind the ears, including:
A lump behind or near the ear is also one of the symptoms of acute external otitis, associated with pain, fever and yellow discharge. The swelling is localized in and may affect the outer ear or ear canal.
Parotitis is a viral infection that manifests itself with painful enlargement of the parotid glands and lump behind the ear. When this occurs, the swelling can extend in front of and below the ear, up to the lower portion of the jaw or face.
A lump behind the ear can be a symptom of mastoiditis, especially when the swelling appears in children.
Mastoiditis is an inflammatory process of the mastoid bone (a large bone behind the ear), which causes intense pain with a lump and swelling in or around the ear. Other symptoms of this condition are ear discomfort, fever, drainage, headache and redness of the ear. If you have these symptoms, it is important to visit a doctor promptly for evaluation and treatment options.
Epidermal cysts are small, fluid-filled sacs that can appear anywhere on the skin and are often caused by blocked skin glands. One of the most common types are sebaceous cysts, which are often seen on the head, neck and back. These result from clogged sebaceous glands that produce oily secretions that lubricate the skin.
The epidermal cyst can vary in size, they are usually harmless and no intervention is needed. In some cases epidermal cysts can become infected resulting in red, painful and larger cysts. If this occurs, they can be treated by a healthcare professional.
Inflamed and swollen lymph nodes are one of the most common reasons for a lump to develop behind the ear. They are the body's reaction to bacteria and viruses. The lymph nodes behind the ear are called posterior auricular lymph nodes, and if they become swollen, they usually feel like small, painless lumps behind the ear that are very small in size.
They are usually caused by a skin or ear infection in that area (such as otitis media). Most of the time they are painless and return to their normal size in 2-3 weeks. If they start to become painful, you should visit a doctor to receive a full diagnosis and support.
Lipomas are harmless lumps of fat that develop under the skin and can appear anywhere on the body. They vary in size. Some are small and often unnoticeable while others can be pea-sized, soft and movable.. These larger lumps are usually between 2-3 cm in diameter and painless. It can be quite tricky to distinguish lipomas from an epidermal cyst as both can surface in any area where there is fatty tissue, but compared to a skin cyst, lipomas are usually found deeper in the skin and feel much softer.
If they cause discomfort and pain, it is best to have them surgically removed. Lipomas can also be removed by a professional through liposuction using a large syringe and needle.
Acne is a very common skin condition, especially in younger people. The pores and follicles of the skin become clogged with fluids and shed skin cells. This can cause a swelling on the skin that can become infected and inflamed, including behind the ear.
Acne lumps behind the ears may appear black, white or reddish and may surface on the face, neck or back, among other places. When seeking treatment for acne, it is important to see a dermatologist as they will assess your case and prescribe the most suitable treatment.
In some types of cancer, such as lymph gland cancer or leukemia, a lump behind the ear can be the first sign of the disease. If a lump is hard, fixed in place or uneven in shape, it might be a sign that it is cancerous.
It is strongly recommended that you see a doctor if your lump is painful, appears suddenly or is accompanied by other symptoms.
Although most lumps behind the ear are completely harmless and will go away in a few weeks without treatment, you should see a doctor if any of the following occur:
Your doctor will usually diagnose the lump through a simple exam and prescribe treatment, such as antibiotics, if needed. Occasionally, a lump may require further investigation or imaging tests, such as X-rays and MRIs.
Treatment depends on the cause of the lump behind the ear:
While in mild cases, natural remedies may help treat the condition, in severe cases, natural remedies will not solve the problem. When using natural remedies, it is best to keep in mind that they are designed to help the lump disappear faster but not get rid of it entirely by clearing the area and inhibiting the proliferation of bacteria and microbes.
Some remedies include aloe vera, castor oil and apple cider vinegar application to the area where the lump is present.
If the lump is caused by an infection, it may either clear up on its own as your body fights off the infection, or it may go away with some anti-inflammatory medications.
If the infection has caused a collection of pus (an abscess) to form, it may go away, but it usually needs to be drained by a doctor.