About ear eczema

Ear eczema can be an extremely irritating and, at times, painful condition. It can range from slight dryness of the pinna (the visible, projecting part of the ear) to extensive skin loss and soreness, as well as infection of the external and internal parts of the ear. Eczema can affect the entire ear including the ear lobes, conchal bowl (the area outside the ear-hole), the ear opening (meatus), ear canal (also known as the external auditory canal – the part of the ear which leads to the ear drum) and the ear drum itself (also known as the tympanic membrane). The ear-folds, backs of the ears and the area where the ears meet the face are also common areas for eczema.

What types of ear eczema are there?

Types of ear eczema include:

  • Atopic eczema
  • Irritant contact dermatitis
  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis
  • Asteatotic eczema

How is it treated?

Treatment of ear eczema will depend on the cause and type of eczema, which will need to be diagnosed by your GP.

For atopic, seborrhoeic or asteatotic eczema, apply a medical emollient frequently to the affected areas. You may be prescribed a topical steroid on sore areas behind the ears, and in their folds. If you have seborrhoeic dermatitis, a topical steroid combined with an antifungal may be prescribed.

Apply your topical treatments to the affected area by using a cotton bud to gently paint on your cream or ointment around the ear pinna and the opening to your ear canal (ear meatus). Do not push the cotton bud into your ear. If you have eczema inside the ear canal, you will need steroid drops, which will be prescribed by your GP or other healthcare professional.

If allergic contact dermatitis is suspected, you may be referred to a dermatology department to help diagnose what you are allergic to so that you can avoid it in the future. The dermatologist will usually recommend patch testing.

For more information on ear eczema, please see our Ear eczema factsheet