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About swollen lymph nodes behind the ear

An abnormal bone growth in the ear

About symptoms, causes and treatments of swollen lymph nodes behind the ear

Your lymph nodes play a vital role in your body's ability to fight off infection. When they swell, it is an indication of a bacterial, viral or fungal infection that occurs in the body. In this article, you will learn more about its symptoms, causes and treatments. If you are experiencing a reduction in your hearing ability, take advantage of Amplifon's free hearing consultations.

Symptoms of swollen lymph nodes in the ear

Symptoms of swollen lymph nodes can differ and vary in severity depending on the root cause. When your immune system is challenged with fighting a bacterial or viral pathogen, the lymph nodes swell and the skin around the area affected may be reddened and overheated. Sometimes those affected may also feel pain behind the ear and experience symtomps such as fever, fatigue, sore throat or difficulty swallowing. 

When is a lymph node too big?

Depending on the severity of the infection, lymph nodes can swell up to two centimetres. However, if after a few weeks, the swelling, regardless of size, does not subside, or there is no indication of an infection, it is best to consult a doctor to determine the root cause of the swollen lymph nodes.

Swollen lymph node on one side?

Yes, lymph nodes can swell on one side only. A small bump behind the ear is an indication of an enlarged lymph node which can be an indication of an infection or an allergic reaction.

How long does it take the swelling to heal?

Swollen lymph nodes usually subside within two to three weeks. However, if the swelling persists, it is best to visit a specialist, even if the nodes are not painful or sensitive to pressure. The doctor will examine the lymph nodes and recommend the best treatment.

Swollen lymph node behind a baby's ear

Swollen lymph nodes can also occur in babies. Although most often harmless, it is an indication that the baby has an intact immune system. Particularly in the first years of a baby's life, it is crucial that their immune system is strong enough to protect them from unknown pathogens and viruses. An appointment with the paediatrician is only necessary if the swelling persists for more than two to three weeks or the child experiences fever, loss of appetite, tiredness or weight loss.

When to see a doctor?

We recommend visiting a specialist if your swollen lymph nodes on the neck, behind the ear, under the arm or in the groin area are: 

  • Larger than two centimetres in size
  • Have been swollen for more than three weeks 
  • The node feels hard, regardless of whether it is painless or painful 
  • The skin around the affected area is red, tight or overheated 
  • The skin around the affected area is oozing 

If you are also experiencing symptoms such as fever, night sweats, unwanted weight loss or shortness of breath, you should seek a medical opinion promptly.

Diagnosis of swollen lymph nodes

You can feel a swollen or enlarged lymph node with your hands, then you will feel a lump under the skin. When you have a cold or other infection, you often notice a swelling on the side of your neck or just behind your ears. These are the lymph nodes that are currently fighting the infectious agents. If the person is healthy, the lymph nodes are usually not noticeable. 

Where are the lymph nodes behind the ear located?

A person has between 600 and 700 lymph nodes in the body located on the neck and behind the ears as well as in the armpit and groin, to name a few. The lymph nodes behind the ear are located on the temporal bone and under the back ear muscle. When they are swollen, you can feel them by placing your fingers behind the auricle. 
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Causes & consequences of swollen lymph nodes

Lymph nodes behind the ear can swell when a person is suffering from a bacterial, viral or fungal infection in the ear, throat or eye. Another cause can also be an allergic reaction where the number of antibodies has increased. The infections that specifically affect the lymph nodes behind the ear are: 

  • Fungal infections in or around the head that cause itching of the scalp or hair loss
  • Bacterial infection of the tonsils (tonsilitis) or sores in the mouth or gums which cause that the bacteria needs to be removed by antibodies 
  • Pfeiffer's glandular fever that can cause enlargement of the lymph nodes behind the ear 

The lymph nodes behind the ear can also swell if the person has neck sores, or as a result of an autoimmune disease where the immune system is weakened. It is also important to keep in mind that swollen lymph nodes behind the ear can be the first sign of the lymphoma or leukaemia. However, to understand the true nature of your swollen lymph nodes, it is best to visit a specialist for a thorough examination.

Possible complications

Parotid gland cancer or lymph gland cancer are possible complications of swollen lymph nodes. Particularly painless swollen lymph nodes, fever, weight loss and night sweats are among the most common symptomps of parotid gland cancer. Although extremely rare, this type of cancer can occur at any age and men affected slightly more often than women. The therapy used for treatment depends on the type of lymphoma and stage. 

Parotid gland cancer is usually only detected at a later stage because the tumour is only felt when it is large enough. However, swollen lymph nodes is not one of the first symptoms. The tumour is often detected due to a painful and hard, non-displaced lump in front of or under the ear. 

Treatments of swollen lymph nodes behind the ear

Swollen lymphs are a symptom of a disease and not a disease itself, which means they are not treated directly. The treatment sought combats the disease that has caused a flair up of the immune system and thus the swelling of the lymph node. For example, a doctor can prescibe antibiotics to treat an infection in the mouth or throat which has resulted in swollen lymph nodes.

Homeopathy

For swollen lymph nodes, the following homeopathic remedies are often recommended:

  • Kalium chloratum 
  • Echinacea 
  • Iodum 
  • Cistus canadensis

Home remedies

Swollen lymph nodes can be treated with the following at-home remedies: 

  • Warm or cold compresses placed on the swelling for about 10 minutes. Cold compresses have a pain-relieving effect and warm compresses promote blood flow to the lymph nodes. 
  • Add honey to tea. Honey is said to have an anti-inflammatory effect on infections in the throat and mouth area.
  • Massaging the affected area several times a day with castor oil. This type of oil has an anti-inflammatory effect which activates the immune system improving the filtering capacity of the lymph nodes. 
  • Apple cider vinegar. This type of vinegar is said to have an antibacterial effect which when applied to the swelling using a poultice is dipped in apple cider vinegar and water two to three times a day. 
  • Gargling salt water several times a day. Salt dissolved in water is said to have a healing effect on infections in the throat and neck area. 

Acupuncture

For swollen lymph nodes, you can also resort to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in which thin needles are inserted through your skin at strategic points on your body. Acupuncture therapy is often used to treat an immune deficiency and some inflammations.

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