What is an earlobe cyst?
It’s common to develop bumps on and around your earlobe called cysts. They are similar in appearance to pimples, but they are different.
Some cysts don’t need treatment. If the cyst causes pain, or doesn’t go away, you should seek the help of a medical professional.
How to identify an earlobe cyst
Earlobe cysts are saclike lumps made of dead skin cells. They look like small, smooth bumps under the skin, similar to a blemish. They vary slightly in color from matching your skin pigmentation to red. Usually they are no bigger than the size of a pea. But you should watch them to see if they change in size.
They are almost always benign and should cause no problems other than being a minor cosmetic issue or small distraction. For example, it can feel uncomfortable if your headphones rub against it.
Places you find them include:
- on your scalp
- inside your ear
- behind your ear
- in your ear canal
If a cyst gets damaged, it can leak a fluid called keratin, which is similar in texture to toothpaste.
What causes an earlobe cyst?
An earlobe cyst is also known as an epidermoid cyst. These occur when epidermis cells that should have been shed get deeper into your skin and multiply. These cells form the walls of the cyst and secrete keratin, which fills up the cyst.
Damaged hair follicles or oil glands can cause them. Cysts also often tend to run in families, or can form for no reason. They occur in most people at some point. However, they are generally no cause for concern.
Risk factors to consider
There are factors that may put you at a higher risk for developing a cyst. These include:
- having a rare syndrome or genetic disorder
- being past the age of puberty — cysts rarely develop in children and babies
- having a history of, or are currently having acne issues, your skin is more prone to develop lumps of fluid
- skin injuries that cause cells to react in an abnormal way and bury themselves deeper into the skin, causing a lump to form
How are earlobe cysts diagnosed?
If you feel a bump around your earlobe or scalp, it is most likely a benign cyst and it will go away without treatment. Sometimes the cyst will get bigger, but it should still go away without treatment.
You should see a doctor if the cyst gets large, causes you pain, or affects your hearing. You should also watch its color. If the color begins to change, it may be infected. You should seek the help of a medical professional to have it removed via a simple incision.
How is an earlobe cyst treated?
The treatment for a cyst depends on its severity. If the cyst does not cause any problems, you do not need to treat it. It should disappear without treatment.
You may want to remove it if you find the cyst an annoyance, the pain is significant, or the cyst grows to an uncomfortable size. Also, if the cyst causes any prolonged pain or hearing loss, you should make an appointment with a doctor to avoid an infection.
A doctor can remove it with an operation under a local anesthetic. The doctor will cut the cyst, pull it out, and stitch it up the skin.
If the cyst grows back, which can sometimes happen, it can easily be removed again.
What is the outlook for earlobe cysts?
Earlobe cysts are almost always benign and disappear without treatment. They are usually nothing more than a minor distraction. If they grow and begin to cause pain or even a slight loss of hearing, you should immediately make an appointment with your doctor to discuss treatment options.
Juvenile spring eruption
Author: Dr Mark Duffill, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2008.
What is juvenile spring eruption?
Juvenile spring eruption is a distinct sun-induced skin condition appearing on the light-exposed skin of the ears, usually in boys and young men in early spring.
What are the clinical features of juvenile spring eruption?
Boys and young men are more affected by juvenile spring eruption because they usually have less hair cover over the ears than girls and young women. Patients whose ears stick out are more susceptible. The eruption of juvenile spring eruption typically occurs in spring and consists of itchy red small lumps which evolve into blisters and crusts and heal with minimal or no scarring. Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck occur in some cases. The appearance of the rash is delayed 8–24 hours after sun exposure and heals in about 2 weeks, faster with treatment. Recurrences can occur, with similar climatic conditions.
Juvenile spring eruption
What is the cause of juvenile spring eruption?
Juvenile spring eruption is probably a localised form of polymorphic light eruption (PMLE) — a sun allergy rash of unknown cause which can have various appearances and affects more widespread areas of sun-exposed skin. Some patients with juvenile spring eruption also have PMLE. Cold weather, such as can occur in the spring, is also thought to play a part in juvenile spring eruption.
How is juvenile spring eruption diagnosed?
Juvenile spring eruption is usually diagnosed clinically and tests are not necessary.
What is the treatment of juvenile spring eruption?
The lesions of juvenile spring eruption are treated with potent topical steroids and emollients. Antihistamines may be prescribed for the itch. The ears should be protected from sun exposure.
To prevent recurrences of juvenile spring eruption, especially when climatic conditions are conducive, hats and sunscreens should be used. Hair can be grown over the ears.
See smartphone apps to check your skin.
- Alexander J Stratigos, MD, Christina Antoniou, MD, Pavlos Papadakis, MD, Apostolos Papapostolu MD, Dimitrios Sabatziotis, MD, Konstantia Tranaka, RN, Konstantina Tsara RN, Andreas D Katsambas MD. Athens, Greece. Juvenile spring eruption: Clinicopathologic features and phototesting results in 4 cases. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004; 50: no 2. S57-60. Medline.
On DermNet NZ
Books about skin diseases
What causes a cyst in your earlobe?
Cysts and other bumps can appear on almost any area of the body, including the earlobe. Most often, these cysts do not cause pain, are not cancerous, and do not cause serious problems.
Earlobe cysts, otherwise known as epidermoid cysts or epidermal inclusion cysts, grow slowly. A doctor will usually recommend removal only if there is pain, discomfort, bursting, or infection.
Cysts commonly form on adults in areas that are not heavily covered with hair, such as on the face, neck, or trunk.
Here we discuss what a person can expect when they discover an earlobe cyst, as well as symptoms and treatment.
Causes and risk factors
A cyst is a sac-like pocket of tissue that contains fluid, air, or another substance.
When skin cells multiply or grow instead of shedding, they can form cysts within the innermost layer of the skin. These epidermoid cysts can also form if the outermost layer of a hair follicle becomes irritated or injured.
Men are at a higher risk for developing these cysts, but anyone at any age can have by them. Factors that increase the likelihood of a person developing an epidermoid cyst include:
- Age: being past the age of puberty
- Genetics: having a certain genetic condition, such as Gardner syndrome, in which tumors and polyps develop in and around the colon
- Injury: sustaining an injury to the skin or having a history of acne
Cancerous cells rarely develop within epidermoid cysts. However, some cancers have a stronger link to these cysts than others. They include:
- basal cell carcinoma
- Bowen’s disease
- squamous cell carcinoma
- mycosis fungoides
- melanoma in situ
The following are some symptoms associated with an epidermal cyst on the earlobe:
- a small, flesh-colored bump under the earlobe’s skin
- a cyst that is firm and round
- a cyst that may or may not have a central plug, which looks like a blackhead
- drainage of keratin, a thick, cheese-like substance that can have a foul odor
At times, an earlobe cyst can become infected and require medical attention. Signs of an infection may include:
- redness and inflammation of the area
- swelling and tenderness or pain
- a boil-like infection from a burst cyst
Epidermal earlobe cysts are diagnosed by examination and do not require treatment in most cases.
Sometimes, a doctor will take a sample of a cyst, in a procedure known as a biopsy, and examine the sample under a microscope.
When necessary or desired, treatment usually involves removing the cyst with a simple cut and local anesthetic. Surgical removal may also prevent a cyst from reforming.
Otherwise, a doctor can make a small cut in the cyst and drain the contents. This option is quick and simple, but cysts are more likely to return.
A doctor may recommend antibiotics in the event of infection. They may also inject a steroid into the cyst to reduce inflammation.
While earlobe cysts cannot be prevented, they can be managed at home if there are no signs of infection.
Do not squeeze a cyst, as this can cause scarring and lead to infection.
A person may want to place a warm compress over the cyst, to promote drainage and healing.
Earlobe cysts are usually not a cause for concern. However, certain complications may require medical intervention.
These complications may include:
- inflammation and infection
- bursting of the cyst
- skin cancer, although this is rare
If a cyst seems to have burst or is infected, see a doctor.
Earlobe cysts are usually benign and tend to form in middle-aged adults.
Cysts can occasionally be a symptom of a genetic abnormality. People, particularly those with a history of Gardner syndrome or another genetic condition, may want to speak to a doctor about the appearance of a cyst.
Medical treatment is not needed to treat most earlobe cysts. Some may even go away on their own.
However, if a person suspects that a cyst has burst or is infected, it is important to seek medical attention.
Blisters on face and ear
The FP diagnosed herpes zoster with possible Ramsay Hunt syndrome in this patient. The zoster also appeared superinfected by a bacterial infection, which was causing the extensive erythema, weeping of yellow fluid, and some honey crusting.
Herpes zoster oticus (Ramsay Hunt syndrome) includes the triad of ipsilateral facial paralysis, ear pain, and vesicles in the auditory canal and auricle. Disturbances in taste perception, hearing (tinnitus, hyperacusis), lacrimation, and vestibular function (vertigo) may occur. Fortunately, the child did not have facial paralysis, but did have ear pain and vesicles on the auricle. The child also admitted to some ringing in the right ear.
The FP prescribed oral acyclovir and cultured the weeping fluid to determine if this was truly a bacterial superinfection. The child was started on oral cephalexin 3 times a day to cover Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. Oral acetaminophen was prescribed for the pain and fever. The physician called his ear, nose, and throat (ENT) colleague who agreed to see the patient later that day.
The FP and ENT physician decided to follow her without immediate hospitalization since she was taking fluids well and did not appear systemically ill. The following day, the patient was already improving and later that week the culture grew out Staphylococcus aureus that was methicillin sensitive. The child fully recovered from the superinfected herpes zoster without any sequelae. The tinnitus resolved, as well.
Photo courtesy of UTHSCSA Dermatology division. Text for Photo Rounds Friday courtesy of Richard P. Usatine, MD. This case was adapted from: Mayeaux EJ, Usatine R. Zoster. In: Usatine R, Smith M, Mayeaux EJ, et al, eds. Color Atlas of Family Medicine. 2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2013:712-717.
To learn more about the Color Atlas of Family Medicine, see: www.amazon.com/Color-Family-Medicine-Richard-Usatine/dp/0071769641/
You can now get the second edition of the Color Atlas of Family Medicine as an app by clicking on this link: usatinemedia.com
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