It can be very frustrating to find bumps and strange growths on the ears. They are in such a highly visible place that escaping notice is almost impossible. You may be tempted to reach for your nearest wart removal product to get rid of the growths. But before you do, it’s a good idea to find out what is causing the lesion because it might not be a true wart, and there might be a better way to treat it. Otherwise, you could be irritating a far more serious condition.
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Warts on Ears: Identification
First, it’s important to know that other things can grow on the ear that look like warts, but they may be something else.
Three examples of these growths are:
- Granuloma fissatarums,
- squamous cell cancer, and
These may look similar to warts, but need to be treated in a different way. Melanoma can often start out with the appearance of a harmless wart as well. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that what you are working with is a wart. A dermatologists will often do a biopsy to confirm this fact. This is because ear cancer is so common as ears are often sun damaged. The scalp is another place that is subject to this problem because of sun damage. To learn more about warts on the scalp, check out this article.
It’s important to take the issue of cosmetic damage seriously when treating delicate areas like the ears. The skin here is much more prone to scarring and careless application of medicines could even damage the shape of the outer ear, leaving a permanent dent or a missing section of the outer curve that is nearly impossible to repair with cosmetic surgery.
Types of Ear Warts
Seborrheic Wart: The most common type of wart that will be found on the external ear is a seborrheic wart. These warts are flat, and usually a very light color of brown. They are also not actually true warts because they are benign growths that are not caused by the HPV virus. But they are often called warts anyway, even by doctors, because they so closely resemble warts.
There are four risk factors that have been found to increase the possibility of developing these warts:
- HPV infection – This is of course necessary to develop a true wart, since all warts are caused by one of the many forms of this common virus, but can also make you more susceptible to seborrheic warts.
- Ultraviolet light – Over exposure to ultraviolet light can cause skin damage that makes us more susceptible to this infection on our ears, as well as other skin problems like cancer.
- Heredity – People can be predisposed to certain skin conditions, including warts, through certain genetic factors.
- Estrogen – Excess levels of estrogen or other hormones may possibly contribute to the problem, although the jury is still out on this theory.
Squamous Papilloma: A squamous papilloma is a true wart, caused by the HPV virus. These are just like the warts you might find on your neck. In fact, breakouts on the neck and ears can happen at the same time. To find out more about warts on the neck, read here.
Often times, the HPV virus will enter the body through birth from an infected mother. Sometimes it will enter the earlobes because of unsanitary conditions during piercing. However the virus enters the body, it is usually very benign and almost never develops into cancer. It should still be checked closely because of the area though.
What if It’s In the Ear Canal?
Warts in the ear canal are very rare – so rare that when it does happen, it often inspires the doctor that diagnoses it to publish a case study. When a wart is found in the ear canal, it must be treated promptly to avoid damage to the ear’s delicate structures. It absolutely should not be treated at home. Any chemicals that burn, freeze or cut the wart away are too dangerous to use inside the ear, even with the help of another person. A doctor is the only one who should treat this condition.
Warts In the Outer Ear Canal
This is a little more common, but still very unlikely. Just like a wart on the inner ear canal, it should never be treated at home because the chemicals used for treatment could drip further into the ear and damage the ear drum. If skin is seriously injured in the process of attempting to remove the wart, it could cause a serious infection as well. It’s best to go to the doctor and have the lesion biopsied and professionally treated.
Just because warts on the ear are very rare doesn’t mean one shouldn’t take precautions to prevent spreading the virus to this area. If you have warts on any other part of your body, be sure to wash your hands before touching your face and ears. Take extra measures to avoid getting sunburns as well because this makes you more susceptible. Pay extra attention to your face, the tips of your ears and the back of your neck when you are applying sunscreen. This will help to ensure these areas are less susceptible to other unsightly blemishes as well.
The Best Way to Treat Ear Warts
Ultimately, the doctor will treat a wart on or in your ear the same as they would any other part of the body that’s hard to reach, like the back. Read this article to learn more about how warts on the back are treated. The same treatments are available to heal ear warts, but must be done much more carefully.
- Cryosurgery – Cryosurgery uses liquid nitrogen or CO2 to freeze the wart away. It then turns black and falls off on its own. While this is sometimes done at home, doctors are able to apply this treatment very precisely so you can have the best chance of eliminating the wart without damaging surrounding skin. Read more here.
- Electrocautery and Curettage – With this method, the wart is zapped with electricity to burn it away at the base and the then dead tissue is cut away with a sharp, round scalpel. Further details can be found here.
- Bleomycin – Bleomycin is a very painful, but very effective injection used to treat stubborn warts such as planter and periungual warts. Because it causes a blister at the sight of injection, this is a much less likely method of removal but may be used for very stubborn cases. Read more here.
- Imiquimod – This is a cream that is mostly used to treat genital warts because the area is so sensitive and Imiquimod is more gentle on the skin. Dermatologists are starting to prescribe it for other areas now as well because it has been shown to be so effective. It would be ideal for delicate areas like the ears. For more information click here.
At home treatments such as banana peels, castor oil, duct tape, or herbal therapies should only be used once you are certain that the lesion is a benign wart. Again, do not use salicylic acid, cryotherapy or any other methods of burning it away on your own. Tagamet may be a good option as it’s taken internally to help the body fight the infection from the inside, so there is no risk of accidentally applying medicine where it can cause harm.
The final and most important point to remember for warts in this area is that treatment should never be delayed. It may be inconvenient to go to the doctor when faced with a lesion on the ear, but the bigger it gets, the harder it is to treat and the more likely it is to scar. Acting fast will make the problem as painless to eliminate as possible.