Woman wondering why her ears are red, a symptom of red ear syndrome

With review and feedback from CEENTA ENT physician Chad Kessler, MD (Rock Hill)

You’re sitting in bed, reading a relaxing book. You’re not stressed and your heart isn’t racing. But suddenly, your ear gets red and hot. What has happened?

Why is my ear red and burning?

People who experience this have what is called red ear syndrome. Red ear syndrome is a rare condition where a person’s ear turns red and feels like it’s burning. This can last as little as a few seconds or as much as a few hours, although the average time is between 30 and 60 minutes. It can affect one or both ears, or it could switch between the two.

What causes red ear syndrome?

While the cause or red ear syndrome is not yet fully understood, there are some correlations with other conditions. Primary red ear syndrome, the most common form, is usually found in children, teenagers, and young adults, and in 80 percent of cases that person has a history of migraines.

Chad Kessler, MD discussing what can cause red ears and red ear syndromeSecondary red ear syndrome is most often seen in women and older adults, and has been linked to cluster headaches, upper spine problems, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), and an inflammatory cartilage condition called relapsing polychondritis, CEENTA ENT physician Chad Kessler, MD, said.

While the symptoms occur spontaneously, they are sometimes triggered by hot or cold temperatures. Excessive ear rubbing, neck movements, and exercise are also known triggers. Finally, teeth grinding, chewing, hair brushing, and even showering can cause it.

Is red ear syndrome painful?

Most people feel little more than an ache. However, others experience sharp pain that extends to their cheek, jaw, or the back of their head.

Fortunately, red ear syndrome is not serious and has no other complications.

How is red ear syndrome treated?

While red ear syndrome can’t be prevented, it usually responds well to migraine medicines.

What if I'm worried about my ear health?

If you are concerned about your ears, schedule an appointment at CEENTA. They will determine if you have red ear syndrome or there is some other issue, and will address any next steps you need to take to get back to feeling 100 percent.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New patients can make appointments online with our ENT doctors in North and South Carolina. Current patients can also make appointments through myCEENTAchart with physicians they have already seen.


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