Have you ever felt a lump or swelling behind your ear that you’re certain wasn’t there before? While a lump may be cause for alarm, often these are harmless. But what are they and how can you treat them?

What caused my ear lump and how can I treat it?

In some cases, a lump is caused by an abscess or a sebaceous cyst. An abscess is a walled-off infection in the tissue of a particular area of the body. It may respond to antibiotics, although on occasion a drainage procedure may be necessary. A sebaceous cyst is when epithelial components that produce keratin are trapped under the skin, forming a cyst that is filled with white, cheese-like material.

Frequently, infections involving the ear or sinuses can lead to an inflamed lymph node behind the ear. These can be viral, although most are due to a bacterial infection, especially ear infections in children. Most of these infections respond to antibiotics or treatment, but some may persist. If they are of less than two centimeters, though, they are of no concern.

Another cause is a lipoma – or lump of fatty tissue – although those are rare in this area of the body.

In less common cases, a lump behind or around the ear may be a tumor involved the parotid gland. Most of these are benign, although approximately 20 percent are malignant. These usually present either just below the ear or in front of the ear, though.

Self-checking an ear lump

ENT doctor Timothy Kelly, MD

Feeling around your ear is a good way to help determine what the lump might be. For example, if it is soft, it is probably a lipoma or something benign. If it is hard, grows quickly, or is fixed, it is possibly something worrisome, CEENTA ENT doctor Timothy Kelly, MD, said.

If it is tender or painful, it is most likely an infection – either an inflamed lymph node or an abscess. Associated symptoms, such as fever or chills, may also raise the concern of an infection.

Of course, seeing a physician is best, especially if the lump persists or has worrisome characteristics. Usually, reassurance is all that is needed, however, an evaluation, especially early in the course, may allow treatment of a more serious condition when it is still curable.

Dr. Kelly sees patients in our Fort Mill and Rock Hill offices. To make an appointment with him or any of CEENTA’s ENT doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also request an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.

An otoplasty may help your ears if you've been in an accident or they're misshapen. Learn more here.

Don't use q-tips to clean your ears. Learn why here.

Learn three ways to treat your ear pain in this blog.





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