Ear Eczema: What You Need To Know


By Natalie Staples

Published On: Nov 30, 2022

Last Updated On: Dec 6, 2022

You are on your morning run feeling good with your new set of headphones when you notice that your ears feel sweaty and itchy. Eczema in and around your ears can make your skin look bumpy or discolored and you may feel dryness. Ear eczema can occur inside your ear canal or on the outside of your ear and affects children and adults.

What are some of the most common triggers for eczema in or on the ears?

We connected with Dr. Jeff Yu of Massachusetts General Hospital to answer this question and more. Dr. Yu notes what often causes symptoms of ear eczema: “Heat, sweating, infection (swimmer’s ear for example), or allergic contact dermatitis to things put In the ear such as headphones (rubber in the earpieces).” Your beloved earrings may be sneaky irritants and trigger your flare-ups. Dr. Yu enumerates that “Earlobe eczema can often be due to metal in jewelry such as nickel or gold.”

Is ear eczema typically atopic dermatitis, or is it common for different types of eczema to show up in/on the ears?

Dr. Yu advises that “Eczema is probably more common on the external ear as the ear canal is more humid and oily.” He clarifies that allergic reactions to soaps or other allergens often occur in the ear canal, “In the ear canal, we think about allergic contact dermatitis or seborrheic dermatitis.”

Furthermore, Dr. Yu mentions that different types of eczema, such as Psoriasis, may occur near the ear, “Psoriasis can certainly also appear in and around the ear and some features (such as silvery scales) can help distinguish it from forms of eczema.”

Finally, according to the Cleveland Clinic, Asteatotic eczema, may also occur in/on the ears and typically affects older adults. Cold weather, dry air, soaps, or wool can cause flare ups in and around the ear.

Are there any special treatment and/or symptom management considerations for eczema on the ear?

There are a variety of treatments for those suffering from symptoms of ear eczema from home remedies such as ear drops to mediated lotions and ointments. Dr. Yu counsels that “steroid drops can be used to treat eczema in the ear canal. Topical steroids or non-steroidals such as calcineurin inhibitors can be used to treat eczema on the external ear.” 

Finally Dr. Yu notes that actions should be taken to resolve allergic reactions, “Allergen avoidance such as headphones or jewelry should be done if these could be contributing to the eczema.”

Eczema in/on the ears and ear drum is particularly irritating given the potential for flaky and dry skin and thankfully there are several next steps you can take. Be sure to consult your dermatologist to determine whether you have an ear infection or allergic reaction that may be triggering your skin condition. Ask your healthcare provider about treatments and over-the-counter remedies such as ear drops and topical steroids.

Additional considerations about ear eczema

Keep in mind that before starting any treatment regiment you should consult with a healthcare professional. Your dermatologist can provide medical advice and additional information about treatment options and recommended skin care for eczema on the outer ear, any disruption to the ear’s skin barrier, including flaky skin on the ear, sensitive skin on the ear and whether hearing aids may be contributing to the flaring skin in your ear. Eczema (sometimes called atopic eczema) can affect different parts of the body at different times, and you can have more than one type of eczema at the same time. While itchiness is typically considered a near-universal symptom of many types of eczema and often accompanies an eczema flare, be sure to consult with your dermatologist about choosing the right treatment plan for your individual symptoms.

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