Ear Eczema Ear Eczema

Ear Eczema: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis


What Is Ear Eczema?

Is your skin itchy, irritated, dry, or red? Eczema may be flare-uping. Eczema, also termed atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema, is an umbrella term for allergic skin conditions.

The hands, neck, inner elbows, and knees are common areas where this condition flares up. In your ear canal and on your ear, you can develop eczema.  There are several ways to manage ear eczema, depending on the cause and type of eczema you're diagnosed with.

This article will discuss the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of ear eczema.

During the session, we will discuss treatment options, the following steps when experiencing a flare-up, and when to consult a doctor. 

Symptoms Of Ear Eczema

Ear Eczema Symptoms of ear eczema include irritation, discomfort, itching, and sometimes pain.

It can affect all parts of the ear, including your ear lobes, the outside of the ear hole (conchal bowl), the opening of the ear (meatus), the area behind the ear, the creases of the ear and the ear folds, as well as internal parts of the ear, such as the ear canal (external auditory canal) and the eardrum itself (tympanic membrane).

Symptoms of ear eczema include:

  • Dry skin

  • The skin is red

  • Scaly skin

  • Skin that is itchy and cracked

  • Loss of skin and flaking

  • You may experience occasional thin discharge from your ears

When the air is drier in the winter, symptoms often flare up.

What Causes Ear Eczema?

Several factors can cause eczema, including having a family or personal history of eczema; using certain types of personal care products, fragrances, and beauty products; being in the presence of specific environmental conditions, allergens, or irritants; or being allergic to certain substances.

You should also be aware that three types of eczema commonly affect your ears.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Typically, seborrheic dermatitis (or seborrheic eczema) occurs on the scalp, face, upper chest, and back, where there are sebaceous glands. A combination of oil gland activity, normal yeast living in the skin, changes in the skin barrier, and genetics may cause this condition. Seborrheic dermatitis can cause rough, scaly, red skin, sometimes forming yellow or white crusts, flakes, or drainage.

The skin around the ears and scalp can develop painful cracks in severe cases. The most common form of seborrheic dermatitis in babies and infants is cradle cap (which causes crusting and flaking on the scalp), and a red rash can also appear on the scalp, neck, face, upper back, and shoulders. Adults are also at risk for stress, fatigue, extreme weather, obesity, nervous system disorders, and conditions that suppress their immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS.


Asteatotic Eczema

Eczema craquelé (or asteatotic or xerotic) occurs when the skin becomes dry, itchy, white, and cracked. Eczema with this type is more common in older adults but can occur at any age.

Asteatotic eczema is often caused by extreme weather changes, such as wind, indoor heating, or overwashing the affected area (such as excessive hand- or face-washing). Dehydration or malnutrition, frequent bathing in hot water, and use of some medications, like diuretics, can also cause asteatotic eczema.


Allergic Eczema

A skin allergy reaction or allergic eczema is caused by direct contact with something you're allergic to. Some common causes of allergic eczema include hair products (such as hair spray or shampoo), earrings, cellphones, headphones, earplugs, makeup, perfume, and allergens such as poison ivy or poison oak.

Allergies to food and the environment may also contribute to allergic eczema flare-ups.

The symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis include itching, red patches, sensitive skin, and raised bumps. Symptoms of eczema may appear after using a new personal care product or changing environments.


Medical professionals or your health care provider can diagnose ear eczema and determine the type of atopic dermatitis you may have. An examination of your skin and a medical history review is usually enough for a provider to diagnose. A patch and allergy tests may also be performed to confirm the cause of your condition, although most cases can be diagnosed without testing.


The treatment for ear eczema depends on its cause and type. Some eczema outbreaks can take several months or even years to resolve, depending on their severity and cause. Symptoms can return even after successful treatment or for intermittent flare-ups to occur.

To control itching and dryness and repair your skin, your provider may recommend or prescribe a topical medical cream or ointment. It is common to use a corticosteroid cream, available over-the-counter (hydrocortisone 1%) and on prescription (triamcinolone, desonide, etc.).

Other creams contain calcineurin inhibitors (tacrolimus and pimecrolimus), which work differently from corticosteroids and are prescribed only. Use these only as directed and avoid strong sunlight. Steroid drops may also be prescribed as ear drops.

Avoid pushing cotton balls into your ears when using ear drops. The best treatment for eczema is ointments rather than creams, but your healthcare provider can help you determine which option is best for you.

The best combination of medicated creams and ointments is a fragrance-free moisturizing cream like Eucerin or Aquaphor, which helps create a moisture barrier and protects the skin.  Eczema flares can also be treated naturally with some remedies and therapies.

According to some small studies, itching symptoms like chronic eczematous external otitis can be relieved with honey ear drops. Medical honey should only be used for this purpose, and it has yet to be thoroughly studied or found to be more effective than medical ear drops. It is generally not recommended to insert food products into the ear unless recommended by a medical professional.

Atopic dermatitis can be treated with wet dressings and bandages. Artificial light forms like UVA and UVB have also been shown to benefit the skin, although direct sunlight and tanning can cause skin cancer and worsen skin conditions like eczema. As much as possible, avoid scratching and irritation.

Identify symptoms early so you can begin treatment immediately, and use an emollient cream or ointment formulated for sensitive skin to moisturize regularly. Extreme weather, harsh soaps, and fragrances should be avoided.

Infants with cradle caps, a form of seborrheic eczema, do not require formal treatment. Mobidoctor recommends washing your baby's hair with a mild, fragrance-free shampoo and gently rubbing the scaly skin of the head with a washcloth. If cradle cap symptoms are severe or cause itching or discomfort, your pediatrician can recommend further treatment.


It may take some time for ear eczema to subside, but it is generally manageable. Even between flare-ups, it may be difficult to cure your ear eczema formally, so be sure to use moisturizers. Otitis externa (swimmer's ear) and other ear infections may be exacerbated by chronic ear eczema. Itching excessively can also cause open sores, which can become infected with bacteria. Your healthcare provider can determine whether antibiotic treatment is necessary if this occurs.

Could It Be Something Else?

Eczema may cause dry, itchy, red skin and irritation on your ear, but other skin conditions may present with similar symptoms, such as:

  • The psoriasis

  • Symptoms of allergies

  • The presence of fungi

  • Hair dandruff

Your healthcare provider can determine the exact cause of your symptoms.


How Mobi Doctor Health Can Help

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Frequently Asked Questions


How Do I Remove Eczema In My Ears?

Eczema in the ear can be treated based on the kind of eczema you have and the location of the symptoms. A provider may prescribe topical steroid ointments, calcineurin inhibitors, and antifungal creams. Eczema inside the ear canal may be treated with steroids and antibiotic ear drops. Keep the area moisturized with a fragrance-free moisturizer and avoid irritants to prevent flare-ups.


Why Do I Suddenly Have Eczema In My Ears?

Weather, environment, medication, and genetics can all contribute to ear eczema. You are more likely to suffer from an ear eczema flare as the seasons change and become colder and drier. Medications may increase your risk of developing ear eczema. The sudden onset of eczema in your ears may be caused by genetics and aging. Check any personal care products you are using, such as shampoos, hair dye, and hair spray, and clean any earpieces or headphones you frequently use if you have eczema in your ear.


Will Vaseline Help Ear Eczema?

As a result of your ear eczema, you may experience itchy, dry, and flaky skin, which Vaseline (and other types of petroleum jelly) can help moisturize the area, reduce itching, and calm down dryness, so it can be used in conjunction with prescribed or recommended medicated ointments as a moisturizer. Using petroleum jelly on the outer ear in moderation is safe.


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