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Lump Behind Ear, Hard, Soft, Large or Pea Sized, Painless or Painful, Causes, Treatment & Home Remedies

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A lump behind ear, earlobe or on bone may be concealed beneath the skin or protruding from the skin. It may be hard or soft be small (pea-sized) or large. Whereas some inflamed, swollen and painful, others are painless and botherless. Can they be cancerous?  This post presents facts, pictures, causes, signs and symptoms of lumps behind ear. Also, it highlights how to diagnose and get rid of them with treatments and home remedies.

Lump Behind Ear Causes and Signs and Symptoms

There are several factors that can cause a lump or bump to form behind your ear, earlobe or on bone behind your ear or near the ear. While most lumps behind your ear do not pose a serious medical problem, some may need to be treated or removed. Let us first highlight the common causes of lumps behind the ear.

1.  Keloids

A lump or bump behind your ear might be a keloid. Keloids are firm, the rubber-like fibrous tissue that develops as a result of overgrowth during scar repair.  They look like raised mass or a lump of smooth shiny tissue over a healed scar. Keloids vary in color from pink to red to dark brown or take the color of the patient’s flesh. They may itchy and sometimes continue to grow gradually.

Keloids form on skin injuries resulting from burns, scratches, acne scars, and surgical sites and piercing scars, especially on the earlobe. A lump behind the earlobe is, therefore, likely to be a keloid, especially if it has the characteristics mentioned above and it forms after ear piercing.

Keloids are more of cosmetic than medical problems and hence do not need any medical attention. However, you can have them treated in case they keep growing or cause discomfort like itchiness. Also, many people have them removed because they find them unsightly.

2.  Acne Vulgaris

Acne vulgaris is a skin condition characterized by comedones (whiteheads and blackheads), pimples or zits (papules and pustules) cysts and nodules and an oily skin.

In addition, the area affected by acne is usually bumpy with painful lesions that may at times bleed, especially if scratched due to itchiness. In severe cases, a localized area may be seriously affected and become inflamed, swollen and more painful.

Therefore, a lump behind your ear may be as a result of acne vulgaris, especially when it is composed of a one or more huge zits or nodules. Additionally, severe acne (cystic acne, nodular acne or both) may manifest itself as a lump behind your ear.

3.  Pimple

Pimples do not necessarily constitute acne, especially when they occur individually on your skin. Although it is rare for pimples to occur in isolation, this can happen on any part of your body.

The hair follicle or pore behind your ear may become clogged with sebum.  In case the clogged sebum gets infected by the bacterium propionibacterium acnes, you will develop a pimple which might be small or large. Hence, the lump may actually be just a huge pimple behind your ear.

A pimple begins to form, it looks like a small raised area on your skin with a white spot. With time, the skin around the small bump may and become inflamed and swell further to form a huge mass.

4.  Cyst

According to Healthline, “A cyst is a sac-like pocket of tissue that contains fluid, air, or other substances”. A cyst can develop anywhere on your skin or within your body.

A cyst is generally benign (non-cancerous) although it can rarely be malignant (cancerous). A cyst is usually not painful but can become inflamed and painful when it gets infected. There are two types of cysts that can form on your skin: epidermoid cyst or sebaceous cyst.

  • Epidermoid cyst: This is the usual type of cyst that can form behind your ear. It is formed when the keratin cells and body fats on your outer skin (epidermis) get implanted into the inner layer of the skin (dermis) through a hair follicle. Normally, this happens following a damage to the hair follicle because of an injury or an infection. When they get infected with bacteria, a protruding lump is formed on the affected area.
  • Sebaceous cyst: This type of cyst is less likely to form behind your ear. It is formed when sebum (oily substance) produced by sebaceous glands is clogged in the hair follicle instead of moving out of the skin. This cyst may cause a lump behind your ear if it develops in this area. Afterword’s, it might enlarge due to multiplication of the keratin within the cyst. In addition, it may become inflamed and painful if it gets infected with bacteria.

Often, the terms sebaceous cyst and epidermoid cyst wrongly used interchangeably, but they are different.

5.  Abscess

An abscess is an inflamed and painful swell that can develop anywhere within the body of on the skin due to various infections. There are different types of abscesses depending on their location.

An abscess that is formed in the skin is called a sebaceous abscess. It is also known as a furuncle or, more commonly, a boil. Unlike pimples and cysts, a boil is primarily formed when a hair follicle gets infected by a bacterium called staphylococcus aureus. It does not start developing due to clogged hair follicle and this is where the difference lies.

A sebaceous abscess is usually inflamed, swollen and comparatively covers a larger skin area. In addition, an abscess is bigger and much more painful than cysts and pimples or zits. Accordingly, a large lump or bump behind ear which starts as a painful reddened area on your skin with a red or pink spot at the center might be a boil behind your ear.

6.  Lipoma

The term lipoma refers to a common benign growth made of body fat that usually forms beneath the skin tissue. It is common in adults aged between 40 and 60 years but can also affect younger adults. Lipoma is generally a hereditary condition. However, it can be caused by physical injury or by some diseases like dercum disease and madelung disease. There are many types of lipomas based on their causes, shape, color, nature.

Lipomas may be too small to be noticed or large enough to appear as a lump of varying sizes on the skin. Therefore, lipoma might be the cause of the lump behind your ear. Since they are made of body fats, lipomas are usually soft tissue lumps that are movable. In addition, they are generally painless although rare cases can be a little painful. Hence, they can easily be identified by touching and feeling them, although this does not always confirm them.

7.  Tumor

A tumor is any abnormal growth of cells in the body that forms a mass (lump). A tumor is also medically known as a neoplasm. Tumors can grow anywhere on the skin or internal organs of the body. Tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). There are many types of tumors classified according to their nature and location.

Thus, a lump behind ear might be due to a tumor that develops behind your ear. Tumors are caused by various factors. Thy may develop when cells multiplication in the body is abnormally rapid than is normal. Also, the tumor may form when old cells which are supposed to be replaced by new ones remain intact alongside the new cells.

Although benign tumors are not medically dangerous, they can still cause undue distress, depending on their location and nature. They are known to cause pain, sensitivity, aches, dizziness and malfunctioning in the body like hearing problems.

On the other hand, malignant tumors are dreaded for being highly fatal. Besides severe physical distress, the cancerous cells of a malignant tumor may spread to other body organs and fatally affect them. Consequently, malignant tumors require immediate medical intervention. Remember that the treatment of cancer is possible, easy, less painful and less expensive at the early stages. In contrast, extremely painful, expensive, difficult or even impossible to treat it at advanced stages!

8.  Mastoiditis

Mastoiditis or mastoid bone infection is a bacterial infection that affects the mastoid bone. The mastoid bone lies at the base of the skull behind the ear. It contains air spaces that are connected to the middle ear cavity.

Usually, a mastoiditis develops when middle ear infection called otitis media spreads to the mastoid bone through the interconnecting air spaces. The infection then causes inflammation and swelling that may appear as a lump behind ear.

Besides the lump, mastoiditis causes redness, tenderness and pain behind the ear. You may also experience fever, headaches, fatigue, and hearing problems. In addition, there is usually some discharge from the affected ear.

9.  Infections

There are many bacterial and viral infections that can cause swelling around your neck and other areas of your body, especially strep throat and infectious mononucleosis. Other common infections that can cause such swellings include HIV and AIDS, measles and chickenpox.

10.  Physical Injury

The lump behind ear may also be due to a physical injury that you suffered. For example, in case you sustained an injury from an impact, it may cause the affected area to become inflamed painful and swollen. If you can remember having been hit behind your ear, then the lump there is as a result of a swell due to the injury you sustained,

11.  Insect Stings and Bites

A lump or bump behind your ear may have been caused by insect bites and stings. You might have been stung by an insect like a bee or a wasp. Similarly, you might have been bitten by a spider, an ant or such insects. An insect may bite or sting you with or without you noticing. Some of the insect bites or stings contain venom (poison) that irritate and cause the affected area to swell.

12.  Plaque Psoriasis

Plaque psoriasis, also known as psoriasis vulgaris or plaque-like psoriasis, is the most common form of psoriasis that affects about 90% of all the people with psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis can affect any part of your skin but is common on elbows, knees, scalp, and back.

Typically, Plaque psoriasis appears like a raised area of inflamed skin which is covered with silvery-white skin which is scaly. It may be accompanied by severe itching, swelling, and pain.  Therefore, the lump behind your ear can be due to plaque psoriasis. Keloids tend to be hereditary and hence run in families.

13.  Muscle Knot

A muscle note is also known as a trigger point or a myofascial trigger point. It is a hard lumpy mass of tissues that is formed when adjacent muscle fibers stick together. They are caused chronic stress on muscles due to lack of exercise, a prolonged fixed posture, and chronic dehydration.

Muscle knots are common and they tend to affect the hips, legs, arms, lower back, and the neck area. A muscle lump on the upper neck behind the ear may be the cause the lump behind your ear. The lumps due to muscle knots are usually tender (painful to touch). Prolonged stress of the muscle knots may cause micro-tearing that results in muscle scars.  If left untreated for long, they may cause be hard to reverse.

14.  Swollen Lymph Node

Lymph nodes are kidney-like nodules that form part lymph system. Lymph nodes in a given location often swell due to an injury, or a growth near the lymph nodes. The condition of swollen lymph nodes is also called lymphadenopathy. Various illness such as granular fever may also lead to swollen lymph nodes especially when this affects lymph nodes at different locations.

Swollen lymph nodes in the upper neck can appear as a lumpor bump behind ear may be due to. In itself, a swollen lymph node should not be a cause for concern. It usually clears up on its own after a short period. However, if the swelling is caused by and underlying infection or disease in the body, the swollen lymph nodes tend to persist until the underlying problem is addressed.

Identifying Lump Behind Ear

A lump behind ear can be easily identified by observing it if it is protruded from the skin. You can also identify it touching or feeling with your hands or fingers, especially if it lies under the skin. In addition, other signs and symptoms accompanying the lump such as pain, inflammation and swelling may also help you identify a lump behind ear.

Lump Behind Ear Pictures

What does a lump behind ear or ear lobe look like? Different people describe lumps behind ears in different ways, which may be hard to understand. Some describe the lumps as a mass of tissues while others say they look like bumps.

However, Pictures will surely give a far better description of what lumps behind the ear look like. You can get the actual appearance of different lumps behind ear using the excellent photos or images provided in relevant sections throughout this post.

Swollen Lump Behind Ear

A swollen lump behind ear suggests that it is caused by infections. In case it is not as a result of infections, it means that the lump has been infected by bacteria or virus.  A physical injury or venom from insect bites or stings may also cause swelling without necessarily being infected.

Painful or Sore Lump Behind Ear

An infected lump or a lump caused by infections may be painful, sore or tender (painful when touched). A painful lump or bump behind ear may also be caused by physical injury or venom from insect stings or bites. Generally, acne, abscess, mastoiditis, ear infection and swollen lymph nodes form painful lumps.

Painless Lamp Behind Ear

In case the lump behind your ear is painless, then it is an indication that it is probably not caused by infections, physical injury or insect venom. Therefore, painless lumps behind ear are likely to be keloids, lipoma, cysts, benign tumors or malignant tumors.

Hard or Soft Lump Behind Ear

You might find your lump hard or soft to touch. Usually, hard lumps behind the ear are caused by acne vulgaris. They are relatively deep-seated into the skin and feel like hard stable nodules that can last for a long time. In addition, they may be painful to touch. On the other hand, Keloids and lipomas are usually soft to touch.

Small Lump Behind Ear (Pea-sized Lump Behind Ear)

A small lump behind ears often described by many people as a pea-sized lump. The lump itself may be located behind the earlobe, slightly below the ear of on the bone behind the ear. The pea-sized lump or bump, which may be hard or fleshy, is usually caused by small epidermoid or sebaceous cysts or swollen lymph nodes.

Usually, the small lumps behind ear do not pose any medical problem. Usually, they heal on their own after some time. However, they become painful in if infected by bacteria, in which case they may need to be treated or removed soon.

Large Lump Behind Ear

Some lumps behind ear large and protruded in a way that makes the area look unsightly. Usually, most of those who have such large lumps seek to have them removed whether or not they pose medical problems. Often, large lumps will at least be bothering if not unsightly. The common causes of large lumps behind ear or earlobe include Keloids, lipoma, cysts and, rarely, tumors.

Lump Behind Ear on Bone

In case your lump lies on the bone behind the ear, it is very likely that is caused by middle ear infection also called otitis media. However, this does not rule out the other possible causes discussed in an earlier section of this post.

Lump behind Ear Lobe

A lump behind ear may be located on the mastoid bone close to the ear or behind the earlobe. A lump behind the earlobe is likely to be caused by keloids caused by ear piercing scar. However, most of the other causes discussed in an earlier section above are possible.

Cancer Lump Behind Ear

A lump behind ear is usually benign (non-cancerous) and hence does not constitute any serious medical danger. However, under very rare cases, you might have a malignant or cancerous lump behind ear. This is especially true when the lump is a malignant tumor. However, other lumps like keloids and lipoma may develop cancer cells too, although only in isolated cases.

Cancerous lumps are usually pink or red-brown and have a scaly unstable surface. They often form ulcerous lesions that may sometimes bleed. Other common symptoms of a cancerous lump include being inflamed painful and itchy. A lump that manifests most or all of these characteristics must be examined and screened for cancer.

Lump Behind Both Ears

In case you develop lamps on both ears on bone, the likely cause is otitis media (ear infection) when both the ears are affected. Similarly, if the lumps are located behind the earlobes of both ears, they likely cause is keloids. In this case, they develop after ear piercing and look smooth and soft.

Lump behind ear on Child, Baby or Toddler

Children rarely have or develop lumps behind their ears. In case your child, baby or toddler is born with or develops a lump behind ear, it is likely to be due to hereditary factors like plaque psoriasis, or sebaceous cysts. Middle Ear infection is also a common cause of a lump behind the ears of children if the child develops the ear infection.

How to Get Rid of a Lump Behind Ear

Getting rid of a lump behind ear largely depends on the cause of the lump. Whereas some causes are obvious others may be abstract and require a doctor’s diagnosis and treatment.  If the cause is obvious or known and does not require a doctor’s intervention, the lump can be relieved by home remedies. However, if the cause is not clear or needs a doctor’s attention, seek medical attention from a dermatologist of a GP.

Home Remedies for Lump Behind Ear

Only use home remedies to cure a lump behind your ear when you are sure of the cause and it is not a serious factor. In addition, home remedies should only be used for short periods. In case the symptoms persist, bring the matter to a doctor’s attention.

1.      Olive oil and Garlic

In case the lump is due to mild mastoiditis, prepare a mixture of olive oil and garlic oil and place one to two drops into the infected ear twice every day. Seek medical attention if the condition persists since it might mean that the infection is severe.

2.      Turmeric or Salt

Gargle a turmeric solution in case of swollen lymph node behind ear
Gargle a turmeric solution in case of swollen lymph node behind ear

In case it is a swollen lymph node that is causing the lump behind your ear, prepare a solution of turmeric or salt and gargle it twice every day. Seek medical attention in case the condition does not improve after a few days.

3.      Warm Compress

In case the lump behind your ear is a pimple, cyst or an abscess, Give it a gently warm compress about two times per day. A warm compress will help drain the fluid in the lesion and relieve pain, swelling and any other discomfort. As a result, the lump will get cured and disappear afterward.

4.      Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an excellent home remedy for an infected lump behind ear
Tea tree oil is an excellent home remedy for an infected lump behind ear

Tea tree oil has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is also a natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agent. Hence, it can be used as an excellent home remedy when the lump behind ear gets infected with bacteria, especially when it is caused by acne, pimple, a cyst or an abscess.

Often, a pimple, a cyst or an abscess can get be infected with bacteria. Therefore, tea tree oil can be used to cure treat the bacteria and relieve the affected area of pain and inflammation.  To use tea tree oil, soak a cotton swab the oil and place it over the lump for about five minutes and then wash it with an oil-free soap. This will help dry up the fluid inside the pump and help relieve pain and swelling. The lump will heal and disappear after about one week.

5.      Rest and Exercise

In case the lump behind your ear is due to muscle knot, taking rest, for example from a prolonged computer use, may help relieve it. Also. Messaging and physical exercises such a stretching may help get rid of the condition

Should I pop a lump Behind Ear?

In case the lump behind your ear is caused by a pimple, cyst or an abscess, do not pop it. Popping them will create an open lesion which might get infected and make the matter worse. Besides, popping can result in serious scarring and discoloration on the lump that will make the affected area unsightly for quite some time.

Lump Behind Ear Treatment

Treatment of a lump behind ear depends on the cause of the lump. Basically, it entails treating the underlying cause of the lump. However, some of the conditions that cause the lump behind your ear soon disappear on their own. Hence they may not need real treatment apart from OTC painkillers to relieve pain and discomfort. Some of the ways of treating lumps behind ear are outlined below.

Mastoiditis: If the lump behind your ear is found to be caused by mastoiditis after diagnosis it is treated quickly with antibiotics. In very severe cases, the treatment may involve surgery to either drain the middle ear or remove part of the mastoid bone if seriously affected.

Lipoma: If lipoma is diagnosed as the cause of the lump behind your ear, it does not need to be treated. However, it may be removed through a simple out-patient surgery in case it causes pain, becomes infected or is bothersome to you. Also, lipoma may be removed for cosmetic purposes in case you think it is unsightly.

Acne, Pimples and Abscess: Lumps behind ear caused by acne, a pimple or an abscess is treated with antibacterial medications.

Muscle Knot: Muscles knots are usually treated by physical therapy which uses a combination of mechanical force and movements to correct impairments.

Swollen Lymph Node: The treatment is only necessary if there are other infections and diseases that are the underlying causes of the swollen lymph nodes. Treatment involves identifying and treating the underlying infection or disease with appropriate medication.

Infections: Treatment involves identifying the infections, diseases and conditions causing the lump behind ear. They problems are then treated using appropriate procedures, medications and management.

Cysts and Keloids: Both epidermoid and sebaceous cyst and Keloids are usually treated by removing them through a small surgery. The surgery involves simple incision to remove the cyst and is usually done in office on outpatient terms.

Tumor: A tumor is usually treated through surgical incision if it is found to be benign (non-cancerous). However, in case it is malignant (cancerous), it is treated by a combination of procedures that involve surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

Physical Injuries: These may not require treatment unless they are very serious. However, usually OTC painkiller medications to relieve the pain, inflammation and swelling.

Insect Stings and Bites: These are treated with OTC or prescribe medications depending on the venom the insect leaves on the sting or bite.

When to See a Doctor Due to a Lump Behind Ear

Usually, a lump behind ear is not a serious condition. However, seek a medical professional advice if any of the following happens:

  • The lump is causing pain or discomfort
  • You have difficulty in chewing or swallowing.
  • The tender area around the lump is spreading to the nearby areas.
  • You much experience pain when you try to turn or move your neck or head.
  • If it is a cyst and becomes inflamed, starts producing pus, or ruptures by itself.
  • The accompanying signs and symptoms are getting worse with time
  • The other symptoms that accompany the lump do not subside with time
  • The lump fails to disappear after several days, even if it is painless and not inflamed.

Our Sources and References

[showhide type=”links” more_text=”Show Sources and References” less_text=”Hide Sources and References”]

  1. What’s Causing This Cyst? http://www.healthline.com/health/cyst
  2. Why Do I Have a Lump Behind My Ear? http://www.doctorshealthpress.com/skin-care-articles/treating-lump-behind-ear
  3. What Are Epidermoid and Sebaceous Cysts? http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/epidermoid-sebaceous-cysts#1
  4. What Is a Sebaceous Cyst? http://www.everydayhealth.com/sebaceous-cyst/guide/
  5. Benign Tumors: http://www.healthline.com/health/benign#overview1
  6. Mastoiditis: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/mastoiditis/Pages/Introduction.aspx#causes
  7. Lumps Behind My Ear: What Could They Be? http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313968.php
  8. Lump behind ear: Painful and painless swelling, causes, symptoms, and treatment: http://www.belmarrahealth.com/lump-behind-ear-painful-and-painless-swelling-causes-symptoms-and-treatment/ [/showhide]

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