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Lump Behind Ear

Most lumps are harmless and painless. They are signals for medication. Lumps can either be small or large. Mostly, they are small knots or lumps at the back of the head and just below the ear can be described as a pea-sized. [1, 2]


Picture 1: A swollen pea lump just behind the ear.
Image Source: www.treatcurefast.com

A lump in the neck or throat is most likely to be one of the following:

Swollen glands– This is usually a sign of infection, such as cold. It may also be accompanied by fever and fatigue. This indicates that there is an infection. When the infection is treated, the fever disappears.

A Cyst – This is a harmless fluid-filled lump that may disappear on its own without treatment. It will feel like a pea and roll under the skin when you press it.

Benign tumor – This are tumors that appear as painless and soft. They are movable lumps that may grow from the salivary gland tissues up to the areas behind the ears. These tumors can either grow or not grow.

Cancer -Harmful cancerous growths can develop behind the ears


The following could be the causes of lumps behind the ear.


An abscess develops when tissue or cells in an area of the body become infected. The body responds by trying to fight off the bacteria or virus. This happens when the body sends white blood cells to the infected area.

These white blood cells begin accumulating in the damaged location. When large amounts of white blood cells accumulate in the infected area, pus is formed. Pus is a thick, fluid-like product that develops from dead white bloods cells; tissue, bacteria, and other invading substances. They are mostly painful and very warm. [1, 2]

Picture 2 shows Abscess containing pus
Image Source:www.reddit.com

Acne Vulgaris

When the hair follicles on the skin become clogged, acne is formed. Acne can be formed by accumulation of dead cells and oil.

These results to what we call pimples or bumps. They can be formed anywhere. They are mostly found on the face and also behind the ear. These bumps can grow to be large and they are usually painful. [1, 2, 4]

Picture 3 : shows a swollen area is as a result of accumulated cells.
Image Source:mys.yoursearch.me


When lumps behind the ear overstay without treatment, they may develop serious ear infection called Mastoiditis. This name was developed because the infection is found on the bony protrusion of the ear called the mastoid. This lump may have pus in it and is painful. [2, 6]


Mastoid bone
The first picture shows an infection caused by an overstayed lump that was untreated. The second picture shows the exact location of the mastoid bone and where the infection occurs.
Image source: www.drugs.com


This is caused when a fatty lump forms between the layers of the skin. Lipoma can form in any part of the body. It is almost completely harmless. Often, it is painless. Mostly they are not detectable on the skin surface but they can grow larger and be felt on the skin surface. [2, 3]

Picture 5: Lipoma which is fairly visible and appears to be harmless.
Image Source: en.wikipedia.org


Dermatitis is brought about when there is accumulation of dead cells behind the ear. This can also be as a result of cells that are flaking.

Most times it is characterized by lump that is red in color and painful. Stress and differences in climate can cause dermatitis. People with low immune systems such as AIDS are prone to dermatitis. [2, 5]

Picture 6: The infected area is the greyish inflammation on the outline of the back side of the ear.
Image Source:www.skinsight.com


Malignant cancer growth such salivary gland and skin cancers could develop behind ears. Lumps from these malignant growths painless and will keep growing over time. [1, 3]

Picture 6: A cancerous growth just behind the ear.
Image Source: cancer.ucsd.edu

How to identify Lumps behind the ear

A person can identify a lump behind the ear by conducting a complete self check on the body. This is effective by the feel of the hand. In children they may resemble chicken pox or pimples.

A regular checkup can be done after ear piercing. Some may be harmless such as lipoma but others can be painful, in that case, being a sign of infection. [7]


Different types of lumps of the ear have different treatment techniques. The following are treatment for the various causes of lumps behind the ear.

   1.  Abscess

For some small abscess they may drain and heal without the need of treatment. Applications of heat in the form of a warm funnel can speedup up the healing process. For persistent abscess the doctor can prescribe antibiotics such as broad-spectrum.

If your skin abscess needs draining, you will probably have a small operation carried out under anaesthetic where you remain awake and the area around the abscess is numbed.

During the procedure, the surgeon will make a cut (incision) in the abscess, to allow the pus to drain out. They may also take a sample of pus for testing.

In other cases the pus can also be drained by the use of a needle. [1, 2]

   2.  Acne Vulgaris

  • This is treatable through oral antibiotics for adults.
  • Oral antibiotics are applicable to all patients from mild to severe inflammations with the exceptions of children below eight years of age.
  • For females who are within puberty period, oral antibiotics can be administered together with hormonal therapy for quick recovery.[1, 2, 4]

  3.  Mastoiditis

  • Prescriptions such as oral antibiotics can be administered to a patient.
  • Ear drops can also be an effective way to drain pus.
  • A mixture of olive oil and garlic oil can also be an effective way to cure mastoiditis.[2, 6]

  4.   Lipoma

  • A lipoma that is left alone usually doesn’t cause any problems. However, a dermatologist can treat the lump if it’s uncomfortable.
  • The most common way to treat a lipoma is to remove it through surgery. This is especially helpful for large skin especially if the tumor is still growing.
  • Another option is liposuction where a needle attached to a large syringe, and the area is usually numbed before the procedure.
  • Steroid injections may also be used right on the affected area. This treatment can shrink the lipoma, but it doesn’t completely remove it. [2, 3]

  5.   Dermatitis

  • Topical creams and lotions with corticosteroids like hydrocortisone and betamethasone will help reduce the itching sensation and discomfort.
  • Antifungal agents like ciclopirox and ketoconazole can be prescribed where there is a yeast infection.
  • Cover the area using bandages and dressings so as to totally stop the scratching.
  • Take a soothing bath using uncooked oatmeal or baking soda. [2, 5]


Treatment of lumps that are cancerous depends on the stage that they are in. they can be treated or managed either by chemotherapy, radiation or excision. [1, 3]


  • When you detect a lump behind your ear, one should pay attention on how long it is going to last.
  • If it is still persistent and maybe it is painless, it is advisable to let your doctor know about the situation.

References :

  1. Neville BW, Damm DD, Allen CA, Bouquot JE. (2002). Oral & maxillofacial pathology (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders. ISBN 0721690033.
  2. Bancroft LW, Kransdorf MJ, Peterson JJ, O’Connor MI (October 2006). “Benign fatty tumors: classification, clinical course, imaging appearance, and treatment”. Skeletal Radiol. 35 (10): 719–33. doi:10.1007/s00256-006-0189-y. PMID 16927086.
  3. James, William D.; Berger, Timothy G.; Elston, Dirk M. (2005). Andrews’ Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology (10th ed.). London: Elsevier. ISBN 0-7216-2921-0.
  4. Tuchayi, Sara M.; Makrantonaki, Evgenia; Ganceviciene, Ruta; Dessinioti, Clio; Feldman, Steven R.; Zouboulis, Christos C. (17 September 2015). “Acne vulgaris”. Nature Reviews Disease Primers.
  5. Bershad, SV (1 November 2011). “In the clinic. Atopic dermatitis (eczema)”. Annals of internal medicine 155
  6. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved July 30, 2003.
  7. O’Handley JG, Tobin EJ, Shah AR. Otorhinolaryngology. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 19.
  8. http://www.google.com
  9. http:// www.healthline.com
  10. www.just-health.net. Last Updated 15 January, 2016

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