Swelling behind the ear is most commonly caused by swollen lymph nodes, an ear infection caused by bacteria, fungus, or a virus. Most people with swollen glands behind the ear may experience pain or headaches behind the ear. Most of the time, if swelling builds up gradually over time and is not particularly bothersome, it will resolve on its own, and we suggest a few home remedies below. However, if accompanied by fever, pain or worsening redness, consult an ENT doctor.
Symptoms of swelling behind the ear
Swelling behind the ear is an abnormal growth and can be described as a lump. While it can be alarming to find a new lump on your body, swelling behind the ear is usually harmless, but in some cases, it can be a sign of something serious that needs to be evaluated and treated by a medical professional.
Common accompanying symptoms include:
Swelling behind the ear may also be associated with:
- pain or tenderness
- Feeling of warmth when touched in the swelling area
- ear discharge
What causes swelling behind the ear?
The mastoid, a bony structure located behind the ear, can sometimes be a source of swelling. Other structures in this area include blood vessels, lymph nodes, and superficial skin that can cause swelling behind the ear. Some causes of behind-the-ear swelling are not serious and may resolve on their own, but you should be examined by a healthcare professional who can determine the correct diagnosis and best course of treatment.
Swelling behind the ear can be caused by inflammation, which is the body’s normal response to injury or infection. Typically, swelling of the skin signals a skin infection, of which there are several types.
- Bacterial skin infections: Your skin is covered with hair follicles, which are tiny sacs from which each strand of hair grows. Sometimes a hair follicle can become infected by bacteria, leading to something called folliculitis. A skin infection that doesn’t clear up can lead to an abscess, a pocket of pus that forms as your body tries to fight the infection.
- Viral skin infections:Viruses can also cause swelling in the form of skin-colored warts behind the ear.
- Fungal skin infections:Fungi can cause a variety of skin infections, including ringworm, which causes an itchy, red, circular rash that may be associated with swelling behind the ear if a rash develops in that area.
- lymph node enlargement: Lymph nodes are small glands in which infection-fighting cells live. Some of these lymph nodes are located behind the ear. In response to infection by bacteria, fungi, or viruses in and around the ear or throat, lymph nodes may enlarge and appear as single or multiple bumps behind the ear.
Some diseases or illnesses are systemic, meaning they can affect many parts of the body, including behind your ears.
Abnormal growth:Some cancerous and non-cancerous growths may appear as bumps behind the ear.
Leukemia:Some types of blood cancer can affect the lymph nodes, which are small glands where infection-fighting cells live, and may look like a lump behind the ear.
related to trauma
Swelling behind the ear can also be caused by injury to that area. You may have bumped your head and then noticed a form of swelling. This swelling is caused by a collection of blood or fluid under the skin and may be associated with bruising and tenderness.
Swelling behind the ear treatments
If the swelling behind your ears has started gradually and isn’t particularly bothersome, there are some home remedies you can try to relieve your symptoms.
- Hot and cold compresses:If your symptoms are due to infection or trauma, they can help reduce pain and swelling.
- Over-the-counter drugs: NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin can help reduce pain, swelling, and redness because they work by reducing inflammation in your body. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may also help with pain and fever, but it will not relieve inflammation. Take it in consultation with your doctor!
- Fluid intake:If your swelling is due to an infectious cause, it is very important to increase your fluid intake, especially if you have a fever, to keep your body strong enough to fight infection.
When to see a doctor
If the swelling behind your ears is associated with the following symptoms or factors, you should seek medical attention in the coming days.
- Worsening or spreading redness
- worsening or spreading pain
- ear discharge
- Change in the shape, size or color of the swelling over time
- fever, chills, night sweats and/or unexplained weight loss
When there is an emergency
You should seek immediate medical attention if the swelling behind the ears is associated with any of the following symptoms or factors:
- High fever
- severe, sudden, or worsening pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Redness that gets worse quickly or spreads around the swelling
- Change in vision, dizziness, or sudden/severe headache
- Ear drainage or bloody discharge
- Inability to move part of your face
- Confusion, confusion
- Hearing loss
- Your other ailmentsif you have: if you have a condition such as diabetes or chronic kidney disease, or if you are taking chemotherapy or immunosuppressive drugs for any reason
Although many causes of behind-the-ear swelling cannot be prevented, some routine healthy habits can reduce the risk of some causes.
- Eat a healthy diet along with exercise
- Get early treatment for ear infections
- Limit or stop substance use:Stop using tobacco if you currently do, and reduce or avoid alcohol if you smoke