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Dr. Abby
Dr. Abby, US Board Certified MD
Category: Medical
Satisfied Customers: 10330
Experience:  Family Physician practicing medicine for over 10 years, United States
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Painful knot behind right ear

Resolved Question:

I have a hard, tender knot behind my left ear. It doesn't throb or anything but it seems to change size.

A few weeks ago it was about the size of a pea and then last week it seemed even smaller and now it's bigger than before.

What is this? I probably won't be able to see a doctor for a few days as I'm snowed in, but I'm freaked out.

Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Medical
Expert:  Dr. Abby replied 6 years ago.

Have you had any sores on your scalp or ear? Ear pain?
Can you tell if the knot is red? Is it moveable?
Dr Abby

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
No sores on my scalp at all. It's not really moveable either. It's flesh colored. You may not notice it there unless you touch it.
Expert:  Dr. Abby replied 6 years ago.

Thank you for clarifying,

Most likely what you are feeling is a lymph node that is enlarged....(called a posterior auricular lymph node).

Lymph nodes in this area will react to inflammation or infections of the scalp and ear...even small breaks in the skin can cause the lymph node to become inflamed/enlarged.

Lymph nodes themselves can occasionally become infected. In this case, they are usually quite tender to touch and red as well as somewhat soft.

What I would do for now is take advil for pain, do not clean your ears (if you do...this can cause breaks in the skin of the ear canal) and try not to worry about it or keep touching it.

Worrisome lymph nodes become larger than 1 to 2 cm in size. Other concerning symptoms include unexplained fever, weight loss and night sweats.

The other possibility is that it is a sebaceous cyst, which is a benign growth that can occur anywhere on the body. It is a cyst that is filled with a cheese like material. They usually cause no problems unless they become infected. In this case, they are red, warm, painful and full of pus.

Have your doctor take a look at it in the next week or so.

Feel free to ask any follow up questions you may have,
Dr Abby

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

It is about 1.5cm in size today, when I first noticed it, it was about 1/2 a cm then I swear it got smaller last week, but of course once I knew it was there I touched it all the time to see if it hurt or was bigger, and then it did get bigger (hopefully because I kept touching it). I don't have night sweats, fever, or weight loss(bummer). I'm snowed in, in Chicago, so it will be a a week probably before I can get to the doctor. Would ice or heat be helpful or should I just leave it alone?

Expert:  Dr. Abby replied 6 years ago.

I am in Michigan so I know about the snow :)

It is not worrisome to wait until next week.

Avoid touching it as this can make it more swollen.

Apply warm compresses to it--this would help if there is any underlying infection (ie an infected cyst).
If it is truly a lymph node, neither heat nor ice will make a difference.

I would also use ibuprofen for the discomfort if needed.

Dr Abby

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