An ear lump can appear anywhere on the ear. This is a localized swelling that can appear as a bump, nodule, tumor or cyst. The lumps are caused by different conditions and can either be painful or painless, soft or firm, small or big and single or multiple.
Most of the time lumps near the ear or behind the ear are harmless. They may need medication in case it’s an infection, but they are rarely life-threatening.
Causes of lumps may include:
Infections caused by bacteria or fungi can cause swelling in and around the neck. They include strep throat and infectious mononucleosis. Other conditions include HIV/ AIDS, chickenpox and measles.
Treatment may involve treating the underlying problems and taking antibiotics for the infection.
Failure to treat an ear infection could lead to mastoiditis. This is a serious ear infection that develops at the bony protrusion behind the ear called the mastoid. The mastoid functions properly by receiving air from the Eustachian tube which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. The infection causes the development of pus-filled cysts that feel like lumps behind the ear.
Treatment will involve antibiotics for the infection. Surgery may be required to take out some of the bony mastoids or to drain the middle ear.
An abscess develops following the infection of cells or tissue in a part of the body. The body naturally tries to kill the invading virus or bacteria by sending white blood cells to the area infected. The white blood cells will accumulate at the area of infection leading to the development of pus. Pus develops from the combination of tissue, bacteria, white blood cells and other substances to form a thick fluid. When this abscess develops, it’s painful and feels warm to the touch.
Treatment of an abscess will require draining of the pus. If the lump near the ear due to abscess becomes complicated, then surgery may be required. Antibiotics will be prescribed for surgery to avoid further infections.
Lymphadenopathy is when one or more lymph nodes enlarge. Lymph nodes are bean-shaped glands that can be located in the armpits, neck, chest, groin, behind the neck and the abdomen. They are mainly caused by infection of the lymphatic system which is a part of the immune system that fights infection. After infection, cells and fluids accumulate in the lymph nodes making them enlarge. This then causes a lump behind the ear.
Another cause of Lymphadenopathy is cancer but it’s rare. The lymph nodes will feel like small lumps behind the ear but if infected, the nodes enlarge causing tenderness, redness, warmth and pain.
Treatment may not be necessary since Lymphadenopathy resolves independently without treatment. However, if treatment is done, the cause of the Lymphadenopathy is targeted.
The sebaceous cysts are noncancerous. They contain semiliquid or liquid material and can be found on the neck, face or torso. They grow slowly but if unchecked can be very uncomfortable. They are formed out of the sebaceous glands that produce oil (sebum) which coats the skin and hair. If the duct or gland that helps oil pass through gets blocked or damaged, a cyst develops. This cyst will form a lump behind the ear either due to trauma from a scratch, a skin condition, surgery or acne.
Treatment involves draining the cyst or surgical removal. Surgery is the best option since it ensures the cyst does not come back.
Acne vulgaris is simply acne. It’s an inflammation of the sweat glands and hair follicles caused by clogging of hair pores to form whiteheads or blackheads. It can also be caused when this whiteheads or blackheads become infected to form bumps full of pus. Acne can also be as a result of hormones which stimulate sweat glands.
For treatment, one can use topical retinoids to help with the maturation of skin. Antibiotics can also be used to treat the infection and prevent further infection. Using birth control pills can help regulate the hormones.
A bump behind the ear could also be a sign of lipoma. A lipoma is made of fat tissue and can be described as a benign tumor. It’s movable, painless and soft to the touch. They mostly can be seen under the skin but sometimes they go deeper and are mostly small in size. Their causes are unclear although family history, injuries after surgery or obesity are thought to be the cause.
Treatment may not be necessary since they are not painful, but one has to keep an eye on them. If it starts hurting, then it can be removed surgically. You can also have it shrunk using steroids or have the doctor draw out the fatty tissue through liposuction.
A lump on the ear can also be a benign tumor. This is not cancerous and can’t spread throughout the body. It can get serious however if it presses on the main artery, the brain matter or a primary nerve. Suspected causes include chronic inflammations, diet, undetected infection or traumatic injury at the location.
Benign tumors are easy to treat and sometimes no treatment will be required. However, if symptoms change, medication, surgery or radiation can be an option.
If a small lump behind your ear is malignant, then it means that it’s cancerous. This type of tumor can multiply and spread to other body parts. Causes of cancer are many with some being acceptable while others not. They include smoking, alcohol, obesity, environmental pollution, poor diet, household toxins and heavy metal exposure.
Malignant tumors may initially not get noticed but their first indication will be a painless lump. Knowing the stages of cancer and how to prevent it can help guard you against tumor growth you can also boost the immune system through exercises, diet, and healthy lifestyle choices.