Lumps behind the ears

Lumps Behind The Ears: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

You may have noticed lumps behind the ears. Don’t panic as it may not indicate something serious. In most of the cases, such bumps are harmless. They only point towards infection that heals with proper medication. Rarely the condition can point to a life-threatening or dangerous condition like cancer. Want to know more about it? Then, read ahead to know in detail the conditions leading to knots, bumps, or nodules. With early intervention and proper care, you can avoid the complications or other issues associated with the problem.

Lumps behind the ears

Causes Of Lumps Behind The Ears

You can develop lumps behind the ears due to different underlying health conditions. While most of them are simple issues, some are serious. So, the causes of the bumps are:


When you suffer from bacterial or viral infection around the face or neck it can cause swelling. The common infection causing the bumps are:

Other conditions can also cause the knots to form. The infections include:

  • Measles
  • Chickenpox



An ear infection can escalate into a more serious infection called mastoiditis without medical treatment. The infection usually develops on the mastoid. It is the bony structure behind the ear region. The infection can lead to the development of pus-filled cysts. So, you can develop knots or bumps in the region. The other symptoms associated with the problem are:

  • Ear discharge
  • Feeling unwell
  • High fever
  • Feeling irritable
  • Possible headache


You develop an abscess when the cells or tissues in a specific area of the body suffer from an infection. The human body responds to the infection by trying to kill the invading virus or bacteria. So, to fight the bacteria or virus, the body sends white blood cells to the infected areas. When the white blood cells start accumulating in the infected location, it begins to develop pus. The pus is a thick fluid comprising dead tissue, white blood cells, bacteria, as well as, other invading substances. When you touch the abscess, it is warm and painful.

Otitis Media

Otitis Media

It is the medical term for ear infection. The infection develops due to the presence of a virus or bacteria. When you develop the infection, it results in swelling and painful, fluid retention in the ear. The symptoms cause the development of swelling or bumps behind the ear. You need to seek medical assistance to ease the symptoms and overcome the infection. The infection only heals by taking antibiotics.


It is the disease of your lymph nodes causing them to have an abnormal or enlarged size. The condition occurs due to a throat or ear infection. The lymph nodes are the tiny structure that looks like an organ. Lymph nodes are present throughout the body. So, you can find them in the following regions:

The lymph nodes can swell as a result of infection. So, you can see swelling in the above-mentioned region when you suffer from an infection. It is because the growing infection-fighting cells build up in your lymph nodes. Your lymph nodes swell due to inflammation, infection or cancer.

Sebaceous Cysts

These are non-cancerous cysts that develop beneath your skin. The bumps can also develop on your torso, neck or head. As the name suggests, it develops around the sebaceous gland. This gland is responsible for producing oil, which offers lubrication to your hair and skin. In most of the cases, the cysts may not trigger any pain. But, it can cause irritation or discomfort depending on the exact location they develop on your body.

Acne Vulgaris

Acne is a common condition affecting people that can cause the development of lumps behind the ears. It is the condition occurring due to the clogging on the hair follicles in your skin. Dead skin, as well as oil, clogs the follicles. It results in the development of pimples or bumps. In certain cases, the bumps become large, solid, and at times triggers pain.



It is the condition that refers to the development of fatty lumps between the layers of the skin. The bumps can develop anywhere in the body. But, they are usually harmless. You cannot detect the lipomas from the skin’s surface. But, when they grow larger, you can feel the bumps with your hands.

Complication Of Lumps Behind The Ear

It is important to get a proper diagnosis from the doctor as the bumps can indicate something serious. In some cases, the bumps may have life-threatening consequences. Cancerous presence can affect your quality and quantity of life. The other causes like an abscess or serious infection can spread to all parts of your body. So, it is important to check with your doctor about the cause of the problem. The treatment plan developed by the doctor can reduce the risk of complications associated with serious causes. If the diagnosis indicates a non-serious cause, then you can have peace of mind. Without prompt medical attention, you can suffer from the following complications:

  • Severe ear infection
  • Spread of infection
  • Hearing loss
  • Spread of cancer

Identifying Lumps Behind The Ears

If you feel anxious or scared about the new bumps that have developed behind your ear region, then you can self-check it. People with a history of acne can easily identify the bump like a pimple. But, others can find it a bit trickier to diagnose the underlying cause of the raised area. You can use your hand as the tool to check the bumps. Some of the self-diagnosing tips are:

  • Touch the lump and feel its texture. If the bump feels soft as well as pliable, then it means you have a lipoma.
  • A tender and painful bump when you touch it indicated the presence of an abscess or pimple.
  • Do you see other signs like fever or chills along with the bump? Then, it indicates the presence of an infection.

Medical Intervention For Lumps Behind The Ears

It is always better to check the cause of the bumps by getting the assistance of a doctor. But, you need medical assistance immediately when you suffer from pain and discomfort. The presence of other signs also indicates you suffer from some underlying issue. With a physical inspection and general checkup, your doctor can help you figure out the exact problem causing the issue.

Based on your doctor’s diagnosis, you can leave the bump to resolve on its own or use any of the best options including surgery to deal with the underlying cause effectively. Together with your doctor, you can find the best way to deal with the problem and prevent the issue to recur or escalate.

Diagnosis Of Lumps Behind The Ears

It is essential to understand what causes the lumps to form. So, you need to see a doctor for diagnosing the problem conclusively. The doctor suggests tests for confirming their findings. The test you need to undergo are:

Medical History

When you first see a doctor, you need to inform him/her about the symptoms you experience. It is also essential to inform about your medical history. The doctor asks you how and when you started noticing the lumps.

Physical Examination

After collecting the basic information, the doctor performs a physical examination. So, the medical professional checks the size, texture, and warmth of the lumps behind the ears, the size, and its appearance can provide some clues about the underlying cause of the problem. Based on the assessment, your doctor can suggest further tests.

Blood Tests

Your doctor suggests blood tests. The tests can confirm or eliminate any suspected health condition or infection. Your doctor suggests specific tests based on the suspected cause. But, a test will include a CBC (Complete Blood Count) test. It sheds light on your overall health. The test can also detect a range of health issues, including blood cancer.-

Imaging Tests

In some cases, doctors suggest imaging tests. The imaging tests of the affected area can determine the presence of tumors. Infections can cause the lumps to develop. So, your doctor orders for a chest x-ray to determine the source of infection.

Lymph Node Biopsy

If you show signs of cancer, then you have to undergo a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. Your doctors remove a sample of the lump from behind your ear region. The sample is tested in the lab under a microscope for determining the presence of malignant cells.

Treatment For Lumps Behind The Ears

Based on the diagnosis, your doctor develops a treatment plan. The treatment depends on the underlying cause of the problem. So, your doctor needs to diagnose the problem. Some causes leading to the development of lumps need medical intervention to clear. Else, it can cause severe complications. Therefore, see a doctor when you see the signs associated with the condition. Wondering the different types of treatment options available? Here are the different treatment plans available:


You need swift medical therapy to treat acute and chronic nature of the condition. The treatment option available for the condition causing lumps behind the ears are:

Acute Condition

The different options available to manage the acute condition are:

Antibiotic Therapy

You need to stay in the hospital for getting the antibiotic treatment. The care is handled by an otolaryngologist (the specialized doctor treating ear, nose, and throat disorder) or an ENT specialist. The antibiotics are provided through an IV (intravenous line).




In some cases, you need to undergo surgery to drain fluid accumulated in the middle ear, the surgical procedure called myringotomy drain the fluid to relieve the pressure from your middle ear. A small hole in the eardrum helps to drain the fluid retained. After the procedure, the doctor inserts a small tube into the middle ear to stop the hole from closing. So, it allows the continued draining of fluid. The tube falls out on its own after six to twelve months.


When the other treatments fail to offer relief from the condition or escalates into severe issues like an abscess or bone erosion, then you need invasive surgery to remove the infected bone. The mastoid bone is removed using the invasive procedure.

Chronic Condition

The chronic condition is treated first by providing oral antibiotics, the use of eardrops, and professional ear cleaning by the doctor. When the treatment options fail to work, you need surgery to manage the condition.


If you develop the lumps as a result of an abscess, then it requires draining. Some case requires simple draining while others need a complex procedure to address the issue. Complicated cases require surgery to deal with the condition. After the surgery, you need to take antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection.

Sebaceous Cysts

Sebaceous glands produce oil. But, dirt or hair follicles can cause its blockage. So, you develop cysts, which you can ignore as it is not dangerous. If you find a sebaceous cyst behind your ear, then you may not require specific treatment. You can just place a warm compress to reduce the tenderness and swelling. In some cases, the cysts can bother you. You suffer from pain or discomfort when the cysts become inflamed. So, you need medical help to deal with the problem.

Sebaceous Cysts

To reduce inflammation, the doctor injects the steroid drug into the cyst. It reduces swelling. If the cysts are large, have severe inflammation or tender, then the doctor drains the cyst. For larger cysts, your doctor can suggest invasive procedures.


In most of the cases, lumps behind the ears caused due to acne are treated with topical remedies. When you have severe cases of acne, then your dermatologist adopts a special approach, which is monitored closely. The best approach includes using the following:

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Antibiotic creams (for example, Polysporin or Neosporin)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Products containing salicylic acid
  • NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Inflammatory Drugs)


Dermatitis affects the area behind the ears as the region has a delicate region. It is a common source for rashes. But, you fail to get treatment at the right time due to the difficulty in identifying the rash by yourself. It is not possible to see the area. So, you can suffer from skin irritation and lead to swelling or lumps. To reduce the swelling and irritation associated with the condition, your doctor can recommend the following:

  • Lotions or creams to reduce itching as well as discomfort associated with the skin condition.
  • If you suffer from the rash due to yeast infection, then you need to use antifungal agents to get relief.
  • The doctor suggests taking a bath with oatmeal and baking soda or Epsom salts to reduce the discomfort.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

When swollen lymph nodes result in the bumps, your doctor tries to find the underlying cause. Treating the underlying cause of antibiotics can offer relief. If it fails to offer results, then a biopsy is required to detect malignancy.

Otitis Media

Otitis Media

It is the infection of the middle ear, which clears on its own within two days (48 hours). If you suffer from recurring otitis media, then the doctor suggests using an ear tube. It is to drain fluid accumulated in your middle ear.


Tumors are classified into benign and malignant. A benign tumor causes you no harm. But, the malignant tumor needs immediate medical attention to prevent the problem from worsening. The treatment option available are:

Benign Tumor

The tumor has no specific treatment as it causes no health threat. People tend to remove it surgically due to cosmetic reasons. If you feel uncomfortable with the bump, then you need to undergo a surgery. The surgeon prescribes medication for possible pain and infection that follows after the procedure.

Cancerous Tumor

When the biopsy returns results indicate the cancerous presence, then you need to undergo treatment to manage the problem. Your doctor can suggest chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The specific type of treatment depends on the type of cancer and its stage.

You never have to get worried about the different treatment options. It is not as scary as it sounds. While you can feel a little uncomfortable with the options, it will only offer you relief in the long run. You need to follow the advice provided by the doctor and avoid squeezing of the lump. It will not get rid of the problem but only escalates it. So, always discuss your treatment options with a qualified physician before deciding the right option and proceed with it.

Home Remedies For Lump Behind The Ears

While you need to see a doctor know the severity and type of issue causing the lumps, you can also take some steps at home. You can adopt some home remedies to get relief from the problem. These home remedies can alleviate the discomfort.

A Warm Compress

A Warm Compress

You can place a warm compress on the affected region to reduce the discomfort. It is ideal when you suffer from rash or cyst causing the problem. The lump shrinks gradually when you place the compress daily. The cysts get reabsorbed by the body, which alleviates the problem.

Apply Lotions

You can apply topical lotion to the affected area to get relief. It works when cysts cause the lumps. You can try teat tree oil or Aloe Vera for soothing effects.

Use Olive Oil And Garlic Oil

If you suffer from infection, then you need to follow instructions provided by the doctor. But, you can also try a mixture of strained garlic oil and olive oil. You can prepare the oil by putting garlic in oil and boiling it for ten minutes. After cooling, you need to use the drops of oil in the infected ear. Once you put a few drops in the ear, lean to the side. It allows the liquid to drain out.

Massage With Castor Oil

If swollen lymph nodes cause the problem, then you can find relief at home by massaging heated castor oil behind the ear region. You can also use petroleum jelly with diluted lavender or a mixture of mineral oil to get relief.

Never use the home remedies alone as some condition needs immediate medical assistance. You need to see a doctor immediately when you suffer from recurring or painful lumps. The presence of infection or other signs like fever needs assessment by the doctor.

Precautionary Action For Lumps Behind The Ears

In most cases, doctors may not suggest any precautionary measures to avoid scaring people away. But, the doctors suggest some steps for avoiding the problem from escalating.

  • Never take the matters into your own hands and treat the condition yourself.
  • The condition can irritate or fail to go away on its own, but you need to have patience.
  • Avoid popping, scratching or squeezing of the limp as it makes the condition worse.

Ignoring the problem for a long time is not good. So, seek medical attention when the lumps trigger pain, discomfort, or see other signs accompanying it.


Lumps behind the ears are not serious in the majority of the cases. But, getting the doctor’s opinion is essential to eliminate the discomfort and prevent any complications. With proper care and attention, you can deal with the issue without any complications.

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