Lumps behind the ear can occur for different reasons. While most lumps are relatively benign, they can sometimes be a sign of a more serious condition. Lumps behind the ear may be hard or soft. Some may be tender to the touch, while others are painless. Let’s examine some of the causes of lumps behind the ear, as well as potential treatments, and when to see a doctor.
Common Infections Can Cause Lumps Behind Your Ear
Lumps behind the ear can often be caused by colds, the flu, strep throat or respiratory infections. That’s because an infection can cause the lymph nodes behind your ears to become swollen and inflamed. Most of the time, swollen glands are not a cause for concern. They will likely go away on their own or if caused by a bacterial infection, be treated easily with antibiotics. Your doctor may also recommend over-the-counter pain medication for any discomfort. You can find these easily at Smith’s Drug Store or another local pharmacy.
If the infection is more serious it may cause the lymph nodes to become really enlarged, swollen, red and tender.
One serious infection that can cause a lump behind the ear is mastoiditis. Mastoiditis is a bacterial infection that affects the mastoid bone behind the ear. It often occurs when an infection in the middle ear is left untreated and spreads. While it’s most often seen in young children, mastoiditis can occur at any age. Symptoms of mastoiditis include:
- Severe pain behind the ear
- Ear drainage
If left untreated, mastoiditis can lead to hearing loss, meningitis, blood clots and facial nerve paralysis. If you have any symptoms of mastoiditis, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.
Skin Conditions and Non-Cancerous Lumps
In addition to infections, several skin conditions can cause lumps behind the ear. While acne is most commonly found on the face, it can occur anywhere on the body. Pimples behind the ear can often be left alone or treated with over-the-counter creams.
Other causes include fatty lumps (lipomas) and cysts. Both growths are soft and usually painless. In some cases, a cyst may become infected and require antibiotics. However, most go away on their own. If you have a lipoma that is causing discomfort you can have it surgically removed.
Could it be Cancer?
Occasionally, a lump felt behind the ear is a tumor. Most tumors found behind the ear are benign as cancerous tumors are uncommon in that area of the body. If a lump is hard, fixed in place and/or uneven in shape, it might be a sign that it is cancerous.
It is strongly recommended that you see a doctor if your lump is painful, appears suddenly or is accompanied by other symptoms.
If you are concerned about a lump behind your ear, or if you’ve been experiencing swollen glands lasting for several weeks, it’s best to seek medical attention to rule out any serious conditions.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Spartanburg & Greer Ear, Nose & Throat today.