Earlobe bumps are a common occurrence. An earlobe bump can be the result of a clogged sebaceous gland, a condition called a sebaceous cyst. Epidermoid cysts appear on the earlobe and, in rare cases, can develop into skin cancer. An inflamed or infected hair follicle can result in a tender lump on the earlobe. The earlobe tissue may swell as a reaction to the metal of an earring.
Sebaceous cysts are benign. The body of the cyst is filled with dead skin cells and oil from the skin’s oil glands. They can be manipulated with the fingers and moved beneath the skin. Sebaceous cysts are painless unless they have become infected or are pressing on a nerve. They can occur anywhere on the body where sebaceous glands are present, including the earlobes.
Epidermoid cysts, like sebaceous cysts, can occur anywhere on the body and are generally painless. The cyst is made of squamous epithelium and does not manipulate as easily as a sebaceous cyst. Although epidermoid cysts are more common than sebaceous cysts, the two terms are often misused. Infected epidermoid cysts can contain blood and pus and can become painful to the touch.
Folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles. The inflammation is caused by an infection beneath the skin at the root of the hair. An earlobe bump caused by folliculitis is usually red and tender to the touch. Depending on the level of infection, the bump may feel warmer than the surrounding skin.
Some people’s skin has a reaction when exposed to certain metals. An earlobe bump can develop after wearing an earring with an offending metal. Earring wires and posts are commonly made of hypoallergenic materials to avoid this problem, but sometimes the hypoallergenic plating wears off or the person has a sensitivity to the earring materials. The bump can be slightly painful, although this is a result of the body’s histamine reaction and not a sign of infection.
Most earlobe bumps resolve on their own without medical intervention. Any earlobe bump that is very painful, is draining fluids, or is still present after a couple of weeks should be examined by a physician to rule out the possibility of a more serious condition. A bump can be removed surgically with a small incision or treated with steroids to reduce inflammation. Some earlobe bumps can be surgically removed with lasers. It is not uncommon for the bumps to recur in the same location after removal.