What Is Causing The Lump Behind Your Ear And When To See A Doctor

Lumps on the body can cause concern, as they may indicate an underlying health issue. Several types of lumps can appear on the body, varying in size, shape, texture, and location, and may be benign or malignant. The Cleveland Clinic says a benign lump is a non-cancerous growth that can occur anywhere. While benign lumps are not cancerous, they can still cause discomfort or be a cosmetic concern, depending on their location. Various factors, including genetics and chemical exposure, can cause benign lumps. Some common types of benign lumps include lipomas, fibromas, and cysts, among others.

A malignant lump is a cancerous growth that can occur anywhere in the body. Malignant lumps are abnormal cells that grow and divide uncontrollably, invading nearby tissues and organs and spreading to other parts of the body, says Medical News Today. Some common types of malignant lumps include sarcomas and carcinomas. Therefore, if you have a lump behind your ear, it can cause concern and may indicate an underlying health issue, which can vary from mild to more serious medical conditions.

What causes a lump behind the ear?

A swollen lymph node is a common cause of a lump behind the ear, according to Medical News Today. These are small, bean-shaped structures that are part of the lymphatic system. The ones behind the ear are known as posterior auricular lymph nodes. When the lymph nodes become swollen, it is often a sign that the body is fighting an infection, such as a cold or flu. However, in some cases, swollen lymph nodes may indicate a more serious condition, such as lymphoma or leukemia, says the Mayo Clinic.

Another possible cause of a lump behind the ear is a cyst. A cyst is a pouch of fluid that can develop anywhere in the skin. While most cysts are benign and do not require treatment, some may become infected or cause discomfort and may need to be removed, says the Cleveland Clinic. In addition, a lump behind the ear could be an abscess, says Healthline. An abscess is a collection of pus that forms due to a bacterial infection. When an abscess develops behind the ear, it may cause pain and feel warm to the touch. A final possible cause is a lipoma, a growth of fat cells that is typically non-cancerous and forms under the skin. Lipomas are usually softer than cysts and can occur anywhere on the body. Other possible causes of a lump behind the ear include mastoiditis and acne.

When to see a doctor

If you have noticed a lump behind your ear, it is crucial to see your doctor, especially if the lump is causing pain or discomfort (via Healthline). Your doctor may perform a physical exam, take a medical history, and further tests to determine the underlying cause of the lump. Another reason to see a doctor is when the bump feels hard or gets bigger over time (via Medical News Today). Finally, suppose other symptoms, such as fever or chills, accompany the lump behind your ear. In that case, it is essential to see a doctor immediately as these symptoms may be signs of an infection or other condition requiring prompt medical attention. 

The treatment for a lump behind the ear will depend on the underlying cause. Some lumps may not require treatment, while others may require medication, drainage, or surgery. When the bump is determined to be a lymph node or caused by an infection, treatment may involve rest, fluids, and over-the-counter pain relievers. The swelling in the lymph node will usually go down on its own as the infection clears up. In some cases, antibiotics may be necessary if bacteria is the cause of the infection. In case it turns out to be a cyst, your doctor may recommend draining it surgically.