Human ear is divided into three parts namely the outer ear, middle ear and the inner ear. The outer ear is made up of ear lobe and the ear canal that leads till the ear drum. Pain and tenderness in outer ear is not uncommon. It can be due to many reasons. It is often accompanied with other symptoms such as swelling and redness. In fact outer ear tenderness can be the first sign of some problem in ear.
The source of pain can be from local outer area of the ear or can be radiating from the ear canal, eardrum or middle ear.It can be sharp and piercing or aching pain. Patient may not be able to bear even simple touch to the area.
Causes Of Tenderness Of The Outer Ear
The outer ear is mainly made up of skin and cartilage. Pain and tenderness usually occur from this area of the ear. There are several factors that can make the outer ear tender and painful. The main causes are injury, infection, skin allergy, cancer, disorders of ear cartilage etc.
Let us know more about the factors that produce discomfort and pain in the outer ear.
- Your outer ear may become tender and swollen if you sleep with one side of your head on a hard surface. However, this type of pain is temporary and soon alleviates as you switch over the side of your head.
- Injury on the outer ear is very common cause of tenderness. The outer ear can be injured because of ear piercing or due to a blow on the ear. This may lead to inflammation, redness and pain. If the injury is not severe, healing takes few hours or days. However, a serious trauma such as cuts and laceration need more intensive care.
- The outer ear can become tender and painful due to sunburn or accidental contact with a corrosive chemical.
- Tenderness is the earliest symptom of infection in the outer ear. It can be a bacterial or fungal infection. The condition in medical parlance is also called otitis externa. The infection usually occurs in the ear canal but the pinna and auricle both outer portion of the ear can be affected. Swimmers are at a greater risk of outer ear infection if the water has presence of bacteria and other germs.
- Allergy from the metals used in earring can irritate the skin of outer ear leading to pain and tenderness.
- Eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis are other skin diseases that may cause pain and tenderness on outer ear.
- Cartilage disorders such as relapsing polychondritis can involve ear cartilage along with cartilage of the joints. It is an autoimmune disease.
- The cartilage can also get damaged due to repeated pressure, for example repeated pressure of phone on the ear for a prolonged period of time.
- Pain and tenderness can be early symptoms of ear cancer, especially basal cell cancer of skin surrounding the ear.
Home Remedies For Tenderness Of The Outer Ear
In order to alleviate pain and tenderness, you need to know the underlying cause. In majority of cases doctors are able to diagnose the cause from examination, medical history and symptoms. Pain killers and anti inflammatory medicines are extremely beneficial in alleviating pain. If the under lying cause is infection, the doctor may also prescribe antibiotic ear drops. In severe infection he may also recommend oral antibiotics.
If sunburn is the cause applying aloe vera gel is beneficial due to its soothing effect. Cold and warm fomentation also helps to alleviate pain and tenderness. Place an ice bag for few minutes over the painful outer ear. It helps to alleviate pain caused due to trauma or a blow on the ear. Repeat the same after one hour for few minutes.