In part because it's difficult to see what's happening, finding a lump behind your ear can be alarming. In most cases, a lump behind the ear is not a cause for concern, even if you should always have your healthcare provider examine any new bump on your body. There are several possible causes of lumps behind the ear, but this article will focus on the most common and most serious possible causes.
After that, I'll discuss how you can self-check the area for growth and how your doctor will examine lumps to arrive at a diagnosis. I'll conclude by explaining when to see a doctor about lumps behind the ear and what treatment options are available.
A variety of factors can cause an ear lump. Doctors will first try to identify the type of lump to distinguish between these possible explanations. Among the possibilities are cysts, pimples, tumours, swollen lymph nodes, or cancer. These growths are sometimes associated with rare genetic conditions or deadly cancers.
It is essential to realise that most lumps behind the ears are cysts associated with less serious skin problems.
Many lumps behind the ears result from blocked oil glands or something preventing dead skin cells from shedding. As a result, skin cells or oil can build up beneath the skin's upper surface, causing cysts to form. These skin cysts are usually benign, but if they grow larger than a pimple, they can become unsightly or uncomfortable. In addition, they can become infected, rupture, or become infected and filled with pus. Two types of cysts are most likely to grow behind the ear: sebaceous cysts and epidermoid cysts.
Sebaceous cysts: Dead skin cells block oil glands associated with skin follicles and form sack-like lumps. Oil accumulates in these cysts. The appearance of sebaceous cysts is similar to that of acne pimples and whiteheads. There are, however, differences in their size, growth, and rupture.
Epidermoid cysts: A cyst forms when the skin folds in on itself around the opening of a hair follicle (also known as a pore). A lump is formed due to the buildup of dead skin cells.
There is also a possibility of a swollen lymph node behind the ear being the cause of the swelling. Once the offending agent is removed or treated, this is usually caused by a localised infection or irritation.
To be sure, see a healthcare provider if it indicates something more serious.
Additionally, there are more severe or uncommon reasons for lumps behind the ear, including:
Use mirrors to check the lump as best as possible when seated or standing in a well-lit area.
The lump should be:
See a healthcare provider if any of these apply to you. A physical exam may be followed by a biopsy to determine whether cancer is present or a skin culture to determine whether an infection causes the lump.
During a biopsy, a small amount of skin will be removed and examined under a microscope; a sample will be collected from an open cyst during a skin culture.
Noncancerous lumps behind the ear usually grow slowly. Occasionally, they shrink or disappear by themselves.
An infected or cancerous ear lump, however, requires treatment.
Whenever you notice any new growth behind your ears, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. Even though most cystic nodules are benign, some skin cancers may develop alongside cystic nodules and should also always be checked.
Symptoms of infection may include pain, redness, itching, and swelling behind the ear. Hence, seek medical attention if the lump becomes painful, red, itchy, or inflamed.
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