Research suggests that in a majority of cases, any kind of lump behind your ear is quite harmless. This is because they are usually caused due to some ENT problem.
You might be suffering from some throat or ear infection. You can also be the victim of a severe cold. All of these can lead to some kind of swelling behind your ears.
In such a case, the lump or swelling will go away on its own in a few days.
However, if it persists for a long time, you might want to consult a doctor, as it can be a sign of some severe disease or infection.
Because of the possibility that the lumps behind your ear can be life-threatening, you should be aware of their causes and available treatments.
A lump behind your ear can indicate something as small as an infection or something as serious as a tumor. Let us have a look at the various causes of a lump behind your ear:
Any kind of bacterial or viral infection of the throat can cause some swelling behind your ears. People who suffer from sinus commonly face such issues.
Whenever their sinus is triggered, their symptoms can be as extreme as swelling behind the ears, on the face, and even the nose and neck.
Mononucleosis is another common infection that leads to swelling or lumps behind the ear.
Chickenpox and measles also cause small lumps to form on the skin. However, these are generally spread across the body and not just behind your ear.
Acne is a word that all of us are quite familiar with. Most of us have faced acne problems in our day-to-day lives.
Clogging of your skin pores and follicles leads to acne. Small bumps are formed on your skin when dead cells deposit in these follicles. These acne pimples or bumps can form at the back of your ear too.
In some extreme cases, these clumps can cover your entire face and are quite painful.
Just like the dead skin that is deposited in your follicles, a lipoma is a lump that forms between the layers of the skin.
If the lipoma is small, you wouldn’t be able to make it out. However, if it is fatty and large, you will be able to feel it.
Doctors say that lipomas are not something to be worried about as they are not harmful to your health. They clear up eventually.
These cysts are of two kinds- sebaceous cysts and epidermoid cysts.
Epidermoid cysts are formed of your dead skin cells. These cells, instead of falling off, begin multiplying and increasing in number. This usually happens due to a damaged oil gland. These cells form a cystic skin that you can feel like a bump behind your ear.
In comparison, sebaceous cysts develop around your oil-producing sebaceous glands. They commonly develop around your neck, ear, and head. They are non-cancerous and filled with sebum.
Epidermoid cysts are filled with keratin. In addition, the sebaceous cysts are not painful and don’t cause any such discomfort.
The difference between a cyst and an abscess lies in the fluid that is contained in each of them.
A cyst is filled with keratin or sebum while an abscess is filled with pus. An abscess develops when your body is trying to fight some infection with the aid of WBCs or white blood cells.
Sometimes, when the white blood cells reach the point of infection, they start depositing in that area of your body along with some other dead tissues. This can lead to the formation of a white liquid called pus in the affected area.
Akin to a pimple on your face that is filled with pus, an abscess with pus can easily develop behind your ear. It can also form from an existing cyst.
You can find your mastoid bone right behind your ear. The origin of this lump behind your ear is an ear infection.
If you don’t get treated, you can develop a severe infection of the ear called mastoiditis. It occurs when your mild ear infection develops into something more serious due to the infection reaching the mastoid bone.
This creates a lump or knot behind your ear, which can be filled with pus at times.
Lymphadenopathy refers to the swelling in your lymph nodes. Since the lymph nodes are tiny structures that are present throughout your body, these lumps can form on your arms, in your armpit, or behind your ear.
In case your lymph node begins to swell, it can take the shape of a bump. Doctors usually tell patients that it will go away with time and doesn’t require any such treatment. However, if this swelling persists, you should see a doctor.
This swelling or lump can occur due to an infection or changing bodily environment. A more serious cause of your lymph nodes swelling can be lymphoma- a cancer of the lymph nodes.
This is the worst possible cause of the lump or swelling behind your ear. It can occur when there is a growth in any of your skin tissues.
Instead of falling off, the skin cells begin to multiply in number. This tumor can easily occur behind your ear on your mastoid bone.
However, a doctor’s visit can let you know if this tumor is benign or malignant. A benign tumor is relatively harmless but should still be removed. But, a malignant tumor is life-threatening and needs extensive treatment.
In case you witness any unusual swelling behind your ear, we suggest that you visit an ENT specialist. However, there are certain signs that can help you identify what kind of infection you have. Let’s look at ‘em:
- If it is a lipoma, it would be tiny, painless, soft, and fleshy.
- If your bump is localized, tender and itches, it is usually acne or abscess.
- If the lump behind your ear is painful to the touch and pus-filled, it can be a pimple or abscess.
- If your pus is yellow in color, you might have developed a sebaceous cyst.
- In case you experience any feverish symptoms accompanying your lump, it can be a sign of some infection.
If your lumps don’t clear out on their own, consult a doctor ASAP.
Various kinds of skin lumps require different treatments. Let’s have a look at them:
- Abscess: In case you develop an abscess or a pimple, the doctor can advise you to wash your face frequently. The main aim is to reduce the oil on your face. You can do this by using an oil-free and hydrating face wash that suits your skin type.
- Cyst: You should try not to apply too much pressure on the cyst. In case you feel irritated because it itches, uses a warm and damp cloth to clean it. This can help in reducing the itching as well as any swelling.
- Lymphadenopathy: A swollen lymph node is not a big deal. There are a number of home remedies to cure it. A salt-water gargle or a light massage of the affected area can really help.
- Mastoiditis: The best option is to consult a doctor since your mild infection has already developed into something more serious.
The Final Word
As we just discussed, a lump behind the ear is usually harmless. However, if the lump doesn’t go away on its own or is accompanied by other symptoms like fever and chills, it is best to see a doctor.
Don’t self-medicate. Any wrong medication can harm your body. Stay safe. Stay healthy!
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