Lumps behind the ear can either be painless or painful depending on the cause. The lump is a swelling that can appear anywhere on the ear including the earlobe, the ear canal or behind the ear. They rarely grow big but can be multiple or single and either soft or firm. They grow rapidly or slowly depending on the cause.
The bump behind the ear may not necessarily be a cause for panic but if you experience the following symptoms, visit the doctor. Note that these symptoms will depend on the cause of the bump. They include:
- Redness and warmth
- Discharge or pus
- Pain or tenderness that spreads
- Difficulty moving the head and neck
- The cyst ruptures and pus forms
If the cause of the lump or bump involves other body systems, then the symptoms will also include:
- Fever and chills
- Sore throat
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Unexplained weight loss
Causes and Treatment
The following may be the reasons you have a lump behind the ear and what treatment to use:
Clogging of hair follicles causes acne that is formed due to accumulation of oil and dead skin. Formation of pimples or bumps then occurs at the area. These bumps can appear anywhere on the body including behind the ear. They can be very painful and sometimes very large.
The doctor will prescribe oral antibiotics for adults and syrup for children. Female teenagers can get antibiotics administered with hormone therapy. This ensures quick recovery.
An infection of tissue cells causes formation of an abscess. If one has an infection behind the ear, the body’s response will be to fight off the bacteria or virus by sending white blood cells to the affected area. The white blood cells accumulate to form pus at the infected area. Pus develops when dead white blood cells combine with bacteria, tissue and other substances to form a thick fluid. An abscess is very painful, red, tender and feels warm to the touch.
A weak immune system makes one susceptible to abscess. This includes people on chemotherapy, those with cancer, diabetes, leukemia, Aids, chrohn’s disease, sickle cell disease, severe traumas, people with burns and the drug and alcohol abusers. Lack of proper care can spread the infection to other tissues, when the bacteria spreads.
If the abscess is small, it will drain, shrink and heal without treatment. One can apply heat to the area to speed up healing but for a persistent one, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics like broad spectrum.
If draining is needed, a surgeon will perform a small operation under anesthetic. A cut will be made in the abscess so that the pus drains out. A needle can also be used to drain the pus.
Lipomas are completely harmless and can form anywhere on the body. A fatty lump, for example, can form behind the ear just between the layers of skin. They are mostly painless and may not even be detectable. They, however, sometimes grow large and can be felt when one touches the skin surface.
The Lipoma can be left alone especially if it’s not causing any problems. If it makes you uncomfortable, however, a dermatologist will remove it surgically. This procedure will be done especially if the Lipoma is large and continues growing.
Liposuction can also be done by first numbing the area before the surgery. Sometimes the dermatologist will use steroid injections on the lipoma to help shrink it. This does not however completely remove it.
If dead cells accumulate behind your ear, you are at risk of getting dermatitis. A red lump will appear behind the ear that is very painful. Sometimes dermatitis is also caused by stress and climate changes. People who have a low immune system are vulnerable to dermatitis.
The physician will prescribe topical creams and lotions that contain corticosteroids to reduce the discomfort and itching. If a yeast infection occurs in the area, an antifungal agent can be used.
To stop the scratching, patients are advised to cover the bump.
A home remedy for dermatitis includes using uncooked oatmeal and baking soda for a soothing bath.
The mastoid bone is a structure that resembles a honeycomb and is located behind the ear. It contains air spaces. Mastoiditis happens when a bacterial infection of the middle ear spreads to the mastoid bone. The infection leads to inflammation and disruptions to its structure.
Symptoms will include irritability, fever, swelling of the earlobe, redness, lethargy and tenderness behind the ear. Sometimes the ear will drain, bulge or drop.
The doctor can prescribe antibiotics or ear drops to help drain the pus. Regular cleaning of the ear will also help.
If looking for a home remedy, mix garlic oil with olive oil. Boil the two for 10 minutes, cool the mixture then pour some drops into the ear. After this, lean on the other side of the ear to allow for absorption. The two soothe and provide relief from infections of the middle ear.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
Swelling of the lymph nodes located behind your ear will cause a bump. The lump will be the size of a pea and will contain white blood cells and molecules. The lump feels tender to the touch or soft. It can also be painful. The lymph node will also cause fatigue and fever. This indicates an infection like bacterial and viral sinusitis, measles, parasitic infections, some STD’s, HIV, tuberculosis strep throat, lupus or a cat-scratch infection.
Symptoms will include sore throat, a runny nose, night sweats, rapidly growing lymph nodes and difficulty breathing. The lymph nodes may also swell. Visit a doctor immediately you notice any of these signs.
The physician will prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medicine and analgesics for bacterial infections. If the lymph nodes are due to a parasitic infection, then you will use antibiotics like broad spectrum and some anti-parasitic medicine.
For a home remedy, apply heat to the area, for example, by massaging with heated castor oil. You can also mix petroleum jelly and diluted lavender, then massage it onto the lymph nodes.
A keloid is a firm fibrous tissue formed when skin overgrows during scar repair. It looks like a lump with smooth shiny tissue that forms over a healed scar. It can be pink, dark brown or red in color. One of its symptoms is itchiness and they sometimes tend to grow very large. They are formed on skin injuries caused by scratches, acne scars, ear piercings, burns, or surgical injuries on the earlobe.
Keloids are more of a cosmetic problem and not medical. They may not need medical attention, but you can treat them if they keep growing or cause itchiness. Removing them through surgery is one option but there is a risk that they will re-occur due to the surgical injuries. Cryotherapy (application of extreme cold temperature to keloids) is the best form of treatment. Recurrence rate is minimal in this type of treatment since the keloids are flattened by the cold temperatures.
Sometimes that lump behind the ear can be a malignant tumor. The tumor will keep growing and will be painless.
Treatment of cancerous tumors will depend on the stage. They can either be through radiation, incision or chemotherapy.
The lump behind the ear may be due to an injury gotten on impact. This will make the area swell and get inflamed. Other injuries can be from insect bites and stings. These include stings from wasps and bees or bites from ants, spiders and other insects. The stings or bites may contain poison that can irritate the skin and cause infections.
Whether painful or painless, see a doctor if:
- The lump stays for few days or weeks
- If the symptoms keep getting worse and complicated.
- If the bump behind the ear makes one mental status change, makes them delirious, confused, they start hallucinating, they get uncontrollable bleeding or delusions.
- If the patient becomes unresponsive in their level of alertness or passes out.