Bump Behind The Ear: A Cyst Or An Infection?

There are different forms of cysts. But the one that occurs behind the ear is mostly epidermoid cysts or pilar cysts. Rarely, what you have might be a sebaceous cyst.

red bump behind the ear

A bump behind ear may go unnoticed because that part of your body is not within the reach of your eyes. Anyways, that is not a big problem because most times, bumps, nodules, or lumps in that area are entirely harmless if they are unnoticeable.

Whatever makes a bump behind your ear noticeable would be that it’s causing you pain or some sort of discomfort. And that may require some medications. For instance, an infection would cause pain and you may need antibiotics to treat it.

But even infections are often not dangerous and they are not life-threatening. Aside from the case of infections, and a few other causes, most bumps behind your ear will resolve without any treatment whatsoever.

Several underlying conditions may present as knots, lumps, nodules, or bumps at the back of your ears. These include problems in your skin (e.g. cysts), as well as enlarged lymph nodes and infections. In rare cases, certain cancers may also cause the development of bumps in that area.

If you often have acne, you may have them behind your ear too. And that’s quite easy to tell. But aside from this, you can touch the bump to try and identify what it could be. Like we mentioned earlier, you may not even realize that there is a bump at the back of your ear until you try to touch the area.

If you find a bump that feels soft to the touch, it is likely a lipoma (or fatty lump). Tender bumps that are painless may indicate a pimple. But if there is a concurrent fever or you experience chills, you may be dealing with an infection.

Bump Behind Ear – A Cyst or an Infection?

How does a cyst behind your ear look like? Cysts can develop anywhere in your skin. But they have the same characteristics everywhere. They are like sacs filled with fluid. A cyst will typically present as a dome-shaped raised area on your skin.

Sometimes, a cyst may have a punctum (or black spot) at its tip. They also move freely when you try to push them. A cyst will not be fixed in one place. If your bump is fixed and does not move, you should get your doctor to examine it as soon as possible.

There are different forms of cysts. But the one that occurs behind the ear is mostly epidermoid cysts or pilar cysts. Rarely, what you have might be a sebaceous cyst. This kind of cyst usually contains sebum (the oily substance in your skin that moisturizes it).’

Many cysts can go away without treatment. But if they don’t, you may need to drain them. But don’t do this on your own. Visit a nearby local hospital and let a health professional drain it for you.

Infections are different from cysts. When you have an infection, your body will react by sending WBCs (or leukocytes) to the infected area. These cells usually combat infectious organisms.

As WBCs aggregate in a region, they can cause swelling. So you see, infections in themselves do not cause swelling, but your body’s immune response can cause swelling.

Two forms of infections can cause a bump at the back of your ear. They are otitis and mastoiditis. Otitis simply refers to an ear infection. Mastoiditis, on the other hand, refers to infection of the mastoid bone. This is the bone (a part of your skull bone) that lies behind your ear.

The infection in mastoiditis typically occurs in air spaces within the bone. Children are more prone to mastoiditis than adults. You should not overlook mastoiditis if you have it. It is quite serious and you will need medical intervention.

If you have an infection, the bump will be red and tender. You may also have an ear discharge, as well as fever. Headache and feeling irritable and unwell are also common symptoms.

Other Common Causes of Behind-the-ear Bumps


Acne can also give you bumps at the back of your ears. This is quite common in some people. Acnes, generally, are common. They happen when sebum lodges in your skin pore and blocks them.

We told you what sebum is earlier. It is the oily substance on your skin that moisturizes it, especially at your hair base. Sebum can mix with debris and dead cells on your skin to form a comedone, which would cause acne.

But then, acnes can get infected if bacteria invade the comedone. When this happens, inflammation may occur and lead to acne cysts. Cystic acne could be very unpleasant and may cause scarring. You should visit the hospital so that your doctor can help you manage your condition of you have cystic acne.


This is another reason why you may have lumps behind your ear. But then, lipomas are usually harmless. These fatty lumps are benign (not cancerous) and they usually grow at a very slow pace. They will also not spread.

Lipomas rarely occur at the back of the ear. This is because there is not so much fat deposit there. But then, this doesn’t totally rule out the possibility. If you have a lipoma, it would have a soft feel.

Lipomas are painless and not tender. But they can cause pain if they press on any nearby nerve. Cysts are quite similar to lipomas but the location of a lipoma is typically deeper within the skin. Lipomas also feel softer than cysts.


You should ask a licensed doctor to check your lump. This is the safest option. Self-diagnosis is not safe. It becomes more important to visit the clinic if your lump is:

  1. Painful
  2. Tender
  3. Red
  4. Filled with pus
  5. Fixed
  6. Feels attached
  7. Growing
  8. Changing in appearance

So you see, a bump behind ear may appear due to many different causes. Sometimes it could be a cyst or an infection. But those are not the only causes. It can also be acne (cystic acne, sometimes), or a lipoma, among many other causes. The best way to know what is happening is to get a medical checkup.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *