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It is not uncommon for people to see or feel a lump, a bump or a swelling near the ear. It may be in front or behind the ear, single or in multiple, painless or painful, firm or soft, slow growing or rapidly growing. There are many possible causes why you can develop a lump near the ear, but fortunately, most of these lumps are benign (not cancerous).

Possible Causes of Lump near the Ear

  • One of the most common causes of lumps or bumps near the ear is a swollen lymph node. Lymph nodes are small, oval-shaped glands found in various parts of the body, including the neck and around the ear. They contain immune cells and filter invading microbes (bacteria or viruses) to defend the body from disease. However, they can also swell due to a malignant tumor (cancer) near or far from the ear. Lymph nodes tend to swell and can cause other symptoms like fever, tenderness, pain and fatigue.

  • Lymph glands found in front of the ear are called preauricular lymph nodes, which drain lymph from around the eyes, cheeks, and scalp near the temples. A condition called oculoglandular syndrome caused by Chlamydia trachomatis or adenovirus consists of severe conjunctivitis, eyelid swelling,corneal ulceration, and swelling of preauricular lymph nodes. They may also enlarge due to other viral illnesses, cat-scratch fever, lymphoma, or a condition called trypanosomiasis.

  • Lymph nodes found behind the ears are postauricular lymph nodes and they may swell due to measles or toxoplasmosis.

  • Lumps due to local skin infection causes boils and abscesses, which contain pus. Trauma from bug bites or severe injuries can produce small pockets of blood in the tissues called hematoma can also lead to lumps around the ear. Mumps, a viral illness affecting the salivary gland near the ear, causes a large lump accompanied by fever and pain.

  • The skin around the ear, just like other parts of the body, can develop lumps from sebaceous cysts, which are sacs filled with pus, excess oil and dead skin cells. Lipoma (fatty tissue) or a fibroma (fibrous tissue) can also develop under the skin and feel like a doughy mass that grows slowly under the skin. These are benign lesions that may be surgically removed if needed.

  • Cancerous growths around the ear may be due to lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatics), melanoma (cancer of the skin), or other types of tumors.

Symptoms

Depending on the cause of your lump near the ear, symptoms may include fever, pain, tenderness, itching, presence of pus or discharge, redness, swelling, and warmth. Viral illnesses may be accompanied by cough, chills, sweating, headaches, sore throat and runny nose.

You should see a doctor if these symptoms do not get better with usual home care or if the symptoms worsen.

Swollen lymph nodes usually disappear within two to three weeks. If the swelling near the ear does not become smaller or tends to grow bigger after three weeks it is best to seek medical consultation for proper diagnosis and early treatment. While infection and benign lesions are more common among young individuals, malignant (cancerous) growth are more likely among people older than 40 years.

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