Although the ear lobe is not believed to have any scientific purpose, a swollen ear lobe can be a painful and sometimes dangerous condition. Ear lobes often swell slightly after the ears have been pierced, especially if an person has an allergic reaction to the metal used. Pierced ears may also become infected, which usually warrants treatment of antibiotics. Insect bites and cauliflower ear are two other possible causes of a swollen ear lobe.
One of the most common causes of a swollen ear lobe is piercing. Usually, after the ears are pierced, there is minor pain, along with redness and swelling. The swelling is usually minor, and can be treated with a cold compress or anti-inflammatory drugs. If this swelling does not go down after a few days, a trip to the doctor is usually advised.
An allergic reaction to certain types of metals used in earrings may also cause a swollen ear lobe. Most people are allergic to the nickel used to manufacture inexpensive earrings. Nickel is also present in some gold and silver jewelry as well. Stainless steel earrings are usually recommended to avoid this type of allergy.
Along with swollen earlobes, an allergy after piercing can also cause a few other symptoms. The area will often be painful, for example, and it may itch. Although it does not happen in all cases involving an allergic reaction, there may be discharge from the piercing hole, or it may bleed. It is usually necessary to remove the earrings to treat a swollen ear lobe.
If removing the earrings does not help, an infection may be the cause of a swollen ear lobe. Drainage, such as pus, will also usually be observed coming from an infected piercing. Medical treatment and antibiotics are usually necessary to clear up this type of infection.
A swollen ear lobe can also be caused by an insect bite. Along with being swollen, the ear lobe will also usually be red and itchy. An over-the-counter antihistamine is usually all that is needed to treat insect bite or sting symptoms. Immediate medical attention is usually required, however, if the swelling moves to the face or throat. This usually indicates a serious allergic reaction.
A condition known as cauliflower ear, or hematoma auris, may also cause a slightly swollen ear lobe. This occurs after a blow to the ear results in fluid building up under the skin, and it is a common malady seen in boxers and wrestlers. If this fluid is not drained in time, it could result in a deformation of the outer ear.