General Question

Nimis's avatar

What's this bump behind my ears?

Asked by Nimis (13127points) September 15th, 2008

For years now, I’ve had this bump behind my ears. It comes and goes depending on how stressed I am. When I’m stressed out, it swells up. When I don’t have anything to worry about, it goes away. What is it? Is it a lymph node? Aren’t those more related to your (physical) health? My sister also has the same thing, but it’s on her arm. What the heck is wrong with my family? Has anyone else heard of such a thing?

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38 Answers

augustlan's avatar

Where on her arm is your sister’s bump? Offhand, I’d think it’s a lymph node/gland. Maybe a hive?

Nimis's avatar

It’s on the inside of her forearm. Do hives reoccur in the same place? (Over several years?)
Lymph nodes are my default answer too…but are they affected by stress?

Hobbes's avatar

A swollen lymph node is a sign that your body is fighting off an infection, which may or may not be related to the stress.

augustlan's avatar

They definitely can be swollen due to stress. I also get hive(s) in the same spot(s) when I’m stressed. Not sure why.

AstroChuck's avatar

Or lymphoma. But I doubt it’s that. Certainly hope not.

Nimis's avatar

Hobbes: I know that lymph nodes respond to sickness and infection. But these bumps definitely respond to stress. I felt it before and after my sister started flipping out one time and there was a noticeable difference.
I am not stressed out about being sick. Is that what you meant?

August: Are hives similar to lymph nodes? I thought it was more like a rash/bug bite?

Astro: Lymphoma!?
Now you’re making me really paranoid. Just read some symptoms online. I also itch when I’m stressed!

augustlan's avatar

No, hives are not similar to nodes. Nodes are under the skin, hives are on/in the skin. But they can both produce pretty big bumps, and can both be brought on by stress.

marinelife's avatar

Stress responses can cause lymph node swelling.

shilolo's avatar

These bumps are most likely benign. Lymph nodes most likely, but also lipomas (little fat accumulations) can behave like that. The stress response suggests lymph nodes. If you are concerned, see your doctor, but I want to reassure you that there is a very low (to nonexistent) chance that it is lymphoma.

Nimis's avatar

Shilo: Do you think I could also chalk up my itching (when I’m stressed) to merely a weird mix of psychosomatic symptoms?
I do get very stressed.

shilolo's avatar

@Nimis. This is just speculation, since I haven’t spoken with you at length, or examined you (so take this with a grain of salt), but stress induced urticaria (itching and hives) is a well known phenomenon (it isn’t psychosomatic). Here is some information from a women’s health website, and another more dense description from a much more reputable web site, eMedicine. Good luck.

Nimis's avatar

Shilo: Thanks for the links, Shilo. Though I don’t think it applies to me because my skin actually looks quite normal. I don’t get a rash, hives or weals(?). The only visible signs come after I’ve scratched.
Always taken with a grain of salt!

shilolo's avatar

You can get the itching without the hives, but this is less common. I don’t really know what to tell you. Next time, try an antihistamine such as benadryl (makes you sleepy) or claritin (loratidine) when you feel stressed and itchy. If it works, you have your answer. If it doesn’t, then maybe it is “in your head”. :-)

Nimis's avatar

Shilo: I actually have tried antihistamines. (They’re quite helpful!) The only reason why I still think it may be psychosomatic is that my partner has picked up this habit too! (Though to a much lesser degree. Sometimes I freak out when I wake up because there’s blood everywhere when I break the skin.) I’m guessing that your head can trigger all sorts of weird stuff. Unless there’s some kind of allergant (I just made that up) in our apartment? But the itching is only triggered by stress. Unless the stress lowers our resistance to said allergant? Gah. I don’t know.

shilolo's avatar

Here’s more information on dermatographism (hives associated with scratching). Given your story, maybe a trip to a dermatologist is in order?

shilolo's avatar

I was thinking more about your original question. It could also be a sebaceous cyst that pops up behind your ear (more information here). So, in summary, options are 1) lymph node, 2) lipoma, 3) sebaceous cyst, 4) something else.

Nimis's avatar

Shilo: Nope, no writing on skin. No rash.

The symptoms are no longer that severe. (The stress in my life isn’t what it used to be.) Though maybe I should go when I’m not freaking out. The chances of me going to see a dermatologist when I’m really stressed out is probably pretty low.

Interesting read. Don’t think it’s a sebaceous cyst though. The cause is listed as clogged hair follicle? Mine is definitely triggered by stress. Unless it was clogged, then the stress just triggers the swelling?

shilolo's avatar

Go when you have time. No need to see her when you are stressed out. Besides, dermatologists aren’t in the habit of seeing “emergencies”. There aren’t too many skin emergencies, and so, it would be tough for you to get a same day appointment.

Nimis's avatar

Shilo: I just wonder if they examined me (when I’m not stressed) if they will see anything?
When I’m not stressed, my skin (and lymph nodes?) are quite well-behaved.

shilolo's avatar

I think your history alone, plus an exam will help. At least get the ball rolling. Maybe the doctor says “next time this happens, call my office and I’ll see you that day…”

Nimis's avatar

Thanks, Shilo. You’ve been more than helpful.

augustlan's avatar

Shilolo, you are a wonderful human being!

missjena's avatar

its a lymph node i am going through the same thing.

Nimis's avatar

Miss: Really!? How does yours behave/look?

raceboy84u2's avatar

it might be hives or dry skin.

Nimis's avatar

Removed by me!

missjena's avatar

nimis my nodes are in the base of my neck in the collarbone area. I have a lot of anxiety about this.

Designer's avatar

Nimis im facing the same thing too when i’m stressed, but my bumps shows up all over my body even the inside of my mouth, but mostly behind my neck where sometimes its as huge as my hand or an egg and it’s hard like a rock, but it goes away when i’m not stressed, im so worried about this and i dont know what to do and i’m even scared to go to the docter,, are my symptoms the same as yours?

Nimis's avatar

Dude, as big as your hand or an egg?
Get thee to a doctor, man.
Mine are much smaller.

Designer's avatar

i dunnoo :/ they disapear in a few hours when im relaxed though,,

Nimis's avatar

I don’t think lymph nodes usually get that big though.
I’m thinking that might be a problem.

augustlan's avatar

@Designer: Why on earth be afraid to go to the doctor? Go, find out!

oasis's avatar

Hi,i echo most of the above however get that sucker checked as i had a node removed and belive me not all are benign and they can become malignant if unchecked.
Please do it!!Just because it does not hurt does not make it nothing.
I went for three years ignoring mine because it caused no pain and when i finally passed out (due to the pressue of the tumor on blood supply to my brain)did i get it seen to.It is serious stuff so sort it asap.

sjmc1989's avatar

I have something very similar to what you have described behind my ear and even one in my breast and I have had it checked several times and my Doctor said its a cyst but Its always good to be careful.

aggiesoldier's avatar

I get these all the time. I am in the army so haha its mainly there 24/7. I was told it was nothing. just stress

eekads's avatar

Mine Swells up alot to , i get stressed alot too , if it’s really really swollen you should get it checked out , i didn’t get mine checked out b/c it isn’t to bad , but i don’t think you have anything to worry about.

Pandora's avatar

It could be a cyst like @sjmc1989 suggest or even fatty tissue that just gets absorbed back into your body. I once had a fatty bump and thought it was cancer but my doctor told me it was just fatty tissue and it may stick around for months or even years, get absorbed back into the body and even come back in the same spot. However it it only comes out during stress its probably a cyst.
Only one way to tell. Ask a doctor the next time it shows up.

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