Very often lump behind ear is painless and harmless. You can feel the pain, if the lump gets infected and grows into an abscess. Several factors can lead to the formation of lump or bumps behind the ears. Having lump behind ear does not mean there is some problem in the ear. It can be due to external factors like infection that causes a lump or puss filled lesions behind the ear. For some people, affected area can develop swelling and pain due to infection, requiring prompt treatment.
You can easily identify lump behind the ear by the following signs :
- Small cyst like growth without pain
- Blood red color or pinkish colored fluid filled pus like growth behind the ear
- Swelling of skin in and around the lump
- Pain ranging from mild to severe
- Lump is tender and warm to touch
Lump Behind Ear Causes
As said earlier, most of the causes of lump behind ear are external factors and some are internal (happening within the ear). Some of the common causes of lump formation behind ear are given below.
Lump behind ear can be caused by bacteria or viral infection. Lump/lesions can form anywhere on the body due to infection. Abscess is nothing but small protruding growth on the skin filled with pus. Abscesses are primarily caused by infection and it can be either external or internal abscess. External ones develop just below the skin whereas internal abscess are formed inside the body and cannot be seen or touched.
Mastoiditis is yet another infection that develops in the middle ear. Mastoid is the name of small piece of bone located in the inner ear and due to infection of middle ear; this bone may not become visible. Actual cause of mastoiditis is the infection of the middle ear left untreated. Over time, the infection of the middle ear spreads to the inner ear affecting the mastoid bone. Symptoms of mastoiditis include pus draining from the ear with foul smell, pain in the ear, swelling, mild fever and headache.
3. Swelling Of Lymph Nodes
Like many other places in the body, lymph nodes are found in the ear also. These lymph nodes can get swollen due to infection causing lump behind the ear. This can occur due to immune system problem and due to bacterial infection like strep throat and more serious infections like TB, and lupus. Inflammation of lymph nodes of the ear can be felt as growth of lump behind the ear.
4. Otitis Media
This is another common ear infection that causes lump behind the ear. Often this infection occurs in infants and children but sometimes it occurs on adults also. This condition occurs when the Eustachian tube gets clogged with debris leading to moisture favoring bacterial infection. Generally otitis media and effusion do not cause lump. Symptoms of OM include ear pain, sleeplessness, repeated crying (infants) and pus like drainage from the ear.
5. Sebaceous Cyst
Sebaceous gland is largely found on the scalp and face and some parts of the skin also. This gland produces sebum, an oily liquid that keeps the skin lubricated. When these glands get clogged it can cause bumps beneath the skin and also behind the ear. Generally they are harmless and do not cause any pain.
Acne, known commonly as pimple occur mostly on the face but sometimes on the neck and ear. This occurs largely during adolescence and due to hormonal fluctuations. Small reddish bumps appear on the face, neck and ear.
Lipoma is a kind of tumor that causes fatty lump on the skin. This can occur anywhere in the body and rarely behind the ear also.
Lump behind the ear can be easily detected. Your doctor may examine it fully and gently press it with his fingers. It could be a pimple/acne or abscess if it is red and painful. In case of lipoma, the lump would be soft and pliable. To confirm his diagnosis, your doctor may request for biopsy, by removing small sample of the lump and testing it in the laboratory. ENT specialist would examine the ears through a special device and tool to get clear picture and also to check if there is any infection of the inner ear.
Who Are At Risk ?
- Anyone can develop lump or cyst behind the ear and of course, anywhere on the body.
- People with compromised immunity, people who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer and those with long-term diabetes are prone to develop lump.
- Generally no treatment is required for lump behind ear, unless it is big and painful.
- In most of the cases lump would shrink on its own, but in case of infectious lump, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics (both oral and topical). If the growth of lump is painful and big in size, filled with pus, your doctor would gently make a small incision on the growth of lump to drain off the fluid inside.
- For mastoiditis, suitable strength of antibiotics is recommended. Periodic ear check-ups can prevent middle ear infection which in turn can affect the inner ear. In severe cases of infection, hospitalization and surgical process is necessary.
- For swollen lymph nodes, your doctor would identify the root cause and prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medications depending on the case.