Lump behind ear: what to do?

Causes, symptoms, and treatment options for a lump behind the ear

Why do I have a lump behind the ear?

Sometimes small lumps that cause discomfort or itching appear on the back of the ears. This area of the body is made up of different structures such as the skin, subcutaneous cellular tissues, adipose tissues and the mastoid bone. Depending on the location of that little ball behind the ear, which is causing discomfort, we speak of one or another condition. Why is a lump behind my ear? Below we explain what the most common causes are.

Lump behind ear causes

Several conditions or diseases can cause swelling, bumps or lumps behind the ears, including:


Behind the ear there is not only the skin, but also the mastoid bone. A lump behind the ear can be related to inflammation of this bone, especially in children, leading to mastoiditis. This disease causes an inflammatory condition, with general malaise, ear discomfort, fever, secretions, headaches and redness of the ear.

Mastoiditis can be caused by multiple factors. The most common is the infection of the middle ear, which requires an antibiotic treatment for its elimination. If you feel that you have a lump behind your ear, go to the doctor to make a diagnosis and tell you what is the best treatment to follow.

Sebaceous cysts

Epidermal or sebaceous cysts develop on the skin. They are generally circular, elastic cysts and may have a pimple in their central part. To differentiate them from adenopathies, the specialist looks at whether the lump moves or not, that is, whether the skin slides over the cyst. If it does not do so and the skin is moved together with the cyst, it is called a sebaceous cyst.

The epidermal cyst can be of different sizes, from very small to several centimeters. It does not react to oral medications or creams. Its treatment is surgical, but it is only operated when the following circumstances occur:

  • The size is very large.
  • It produces deformity in the atrial lobe.
  • It is painful.
  • Annoying on a day-to-day basis.
  • It is inflamed repeatedly.

In many cases they are asymptomatic and intervention is not necessary; you just have to check them from time to time to see how they evolve, bearing in mind that these sebum cysts are not bad. Sometimes they change or decrease their size, but being encapsulated glands over time they grow back.

Swollen lymph nodes or lymphadenopathy

Lumps behind the ear can also be lymph nodes that are swollen. When this happens they are called adenopathies. They have recognizable characteristics:

  • They are elastic to the touch.
  • They are easily mobilized with the fingers.
  • They are small in size, generally they do not exceed a centimeter.
  • They can be painful.

Lymphadenopathy does not usually appear isolated. When the lump is related to the ganglion chain, it is often accompanied by other equal ones in the area. These nodes can become inflamed by an old infection that the patient had in childhood, or at some other time in life, causing them to become hypertrophic. They measure around half a centimeter although, on occasions, when they are inflammatory nodes reactive to an infectious process in the scalp, they can reach more than 1 cm, be painful on palpation, and present redness at the level of the skin. It could be an infection due to folliculitis or a parasitism (lice on the scalp). The nodes are the signal that the body is fighting infection. Once the infection clears, so will the nodes.

Lipoma behind the ear

It is usually difficult to differentiate lipomas from an epidermal cyst, they can appear in any area where fatty tissue is located. The most common age group to develop this disease is between forty and sixty years old.

These balls of fat are usually larger and benign. They do not have a defined outline at all and their touch is soft, they can be moved easily if we press it with our fingers. The treatment they require is surgical, if they cause discomfort and pain, they should be removed. By means of a liposuction it could also be removed using a large syringe and a needle.


Bumps and lumps behind the ears caused by acne appear as a black, white or reddish. It is simply the excessive production of fat that accumulates in the pores of the skin and that also appears on the face, neck or back, among other parts of the body. The causes can range from stress and hormonal changes to the effect of some medications. The only complication that can exist is that it becomes infected.

To treat acne, it is essential to go to a dermatologist as he will evaluate your case and, if he deems it appropriate, will prescribe the most appropriate creams or medications.

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Painful or hard lumps behind ear: when should I worry?

Generally, lumps behind the ear do not pose any health hazard. However, it is advisable to go to the doctor for a physical examination, in order to obtain a proper diagnosis and, if necessary, treatment. Still, you should consider certain factors before downplaying it:

  • If the lump is very large or increases in size rather quickly, visit a specialist.
  • Small, round lumps are almost always safe, but take precautions if they are irregularly shaped or if you feel it move.
  • Also be alert to a change in color or if there is discharge in the lump, also if one or more lumps appear in other parts of the body.
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How do I get rid of a lump behind my ear?

These types of lumps and bumps often disappear without you having to do anything. However, there are some cases that require treatment with topical medications. The most important thing is that you pay attention to the condition of the lump behind the ear. If you notice any of the alterations that we have mentioned before or that this affects your hearing, it is important that you go to the doctor to prevent it from getting worse.

They require surgery when:

  • They are painful.
  • They annoy every day.
  • They are relatively large in size.
  • They become inflamed with repetition.
  • In the atrial lobe they produce deformity.

In most of the times they do not produce symptoms, so in that case surgery would not be necessary. Checking them often to see how they develop would help, these sebum cysts are not bad, so there is no need to worry. From time to time they decrease or change their size, over time they grow back as encapsulated glands.

Natural remedies for lumps behind ear

For mild cases, there are also some natural remedies that can help the lump disappear faster. All in all, it is important to note that they are not a treatment, just a supplement. In more serious cases, they will not solve the problem. But how do these remedies help you? They are said to help deflate the area and inhibit the proliferation of opportunistic bacteria and microbes. We explain some of them.

Aloe vera

This plant is known because antibacterial properties are attributed to it, therefore it is considered that it can be an ally to the disappearance of a lump behind the ear. In fact, several studies indicate that several of its components (such as ethanol or methanol) have antimicrobial properties, so they can be useful to alleviate some bacterial diseases, such as infections.

Due to this, it is considered that by applying aloe vera on the area with the lump, the microbes that caused its appearance could not have more opportunity to spread.

Castor oil and dandelion

Castor oil has traditionally been used in popular culture to treat wounds and pain, because it is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Some recent studies have confirmed that this product does indeed have a certain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action, which is why it could be beneficial in reducing inflammation.

For its part, dandelion is considered to have antibacterial properties, so, in combination with castor oil, it could help reduce the lump behind the ear.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, a substance that can help fight infection and bacteria. In fact, various studies indicate that it has antibacterial and antiseptic properties. However, it is important to bear in mind that it is still an acid, so if you have sensitive skin or have a wound, apple cider vinegar could cause irritation. If this is your case, we recommend that you use one of the other remedies.

How to do it

  • First, soak the cotton wool in the apple cider vinegar.
  • Next, fix it on the lump behind the ear with the bandage or espadrille and leave it to act for a while.
  • After the indicated time, remove the bandage. You should notice that a scab has formed, which will fall off on its own in a few days. If not, repeat the operation as many days as necessary, but always paying attention to the condition of your skin, to avoid irritation.
  • When the scab falls off, wash the area with mild soap or an antiseptic.
  • Then put on another bandage, but without apple cider vinegar.
  • A couple of days later the infection and the lump should be gone.
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