What to know about psoriasis in the ears
It typically occurs on the elbows, knees, legs, back, and scalp but can also occur on more sensitive parts of the body.
Psoriasis is the most common autoimmune condition in the United States and varies in severity.
This article explains how psoriasis develops in the ears and discuss the treatment options.
Psoriasis in and around the ears
Psoriasis is a skin condition that cannot be spread or caught.
It is rare for people to develop psoriasis in the ears. If it happens, however, this can be emotionally and physically challenging for an individual.
Psoriasis can cause the skin to become rough and scaly in appearance. People who experience symptoms on the face and ears may feel self-conscious.
Facial skin is often more sensitive than the skin on the elbows, knees, and scalp, so some treatments may be too harsh to use in this area. As a result, psoriasis in the ears can be harder to treat.
If scales and wax build up inside the ear, a blockage can occur. This obstruction may cause itching, pain, and hearing loss.
Keeping the ear canal clear of scales helps prevent hearing loss and discomfort.
Some people find that psoriasis gets worse over time. This can occur when something triggers a flare, but it is often unclear why psoriasis spreads or worsens in some people. New areas of the body, such as the ears, can sometimes become affected.
Developing psoriasis in the ears does not have any links to cleanliness, touching, or similar factors.
Anyone who develops psoriasis in the ear should consult a doctor to discuss which psoriasis medications are safe to use in the ears.
What is psoriasis?
People with psoriasis have an overactive immune system that triggers the rapid production of excess skin cells. Experts do not fully understand what causes this.
Healthy skin cells take about 28 days to produce. During this time, the body sheds old skin cells, making room for the new ones.
In people with psoriasis, the body creates new skin cells in 3 or 4 days, which does not leave enough time for the shedding of old cells.
This leads to a buildup of old and new cells on the affected areas, resulting in thick, red or silvery scales. These scales can be painful, and they often itch, crack, and bleed.
Researchers have not yet established why psoriasis appears in certain areas of the body, including the reason that some people develop it in the ears when others do not. They do know, however, that it cannot spread through contact.
An article in the journal American Family Physician states that psoriasis is not contagious. A person cannot "catch" psoriasis or spread it to other parts of their body by scratching or touching.
Applying liquid steroid eardrops may help to manage psoriasis.
There is no cure for psoriasis, but it is often possible to manage it with medications.
People with psoriasis in the ears may require ongoing medical care to keep flares under control and avoid complications, such as hearing loss.
Some psoriasis medications are not suitable for use inside the ears. For example, certain topical creams and ointments may harm the delicate eardrum. People should ask their doctor about medications that are safe for the ear canal.
Treatment options may include:
- liquid steroids in the form of eardrops
- liquid steroids in combination with another psoriasis medication, such as a vitamin D cream
- antifungal dandruff shampoos to help clean the ear and kill fungi
- pills that help reduce the actions of the immune system
- drops of warm olive oil, which can help moisten and loosen the wax inside the ears and keep them clean
If psoriasis in the ear interferes with hearing or causes discomfort, a doctor can remove the scales and wax safely and effectively.
It is vital not to insert objects into the ears in an attempt to remove the scales.
Pushing the debris further into the ear can cause a blockage, damage the eardrum, or injure the skin.
If symptoms are moderate to severe, a doctor may prescribe a systemic medication. A relatively new class of drugs, known as biologics, can treat the underlying causes of psoriasis.
Psoriasis triggers can vary from person to person. Some people find that certain triggers temporarily worsen psoriasis before it returns to normal.
Others experience a permanent worsening of scales and other symptoms.
Either way, people with psoriasis should try to avoid triggers whenever possible. Those with psoriasis in the ears may find that a flare can suddenly affect their hearing, and this can be particularly bothersome and stressful.
Common triggers of psoriasis include:
- Stress: Although it is not always possible to avoid the causes of stress, being able to manage it can help prevent flares. Relaxation, regular exercise, deep breathing, and meditation may help.
- Medications: Certain medicines can make psoriasis worse, including some drugs for high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, mental health disorders, and malaria. People should work with their doctor to find medications that do not aggravate their psoriasis.
- Cuts, scrapes, sunburn, and other skin injuries: Any trauma to the skin can cause a new case of psoriasis in the affected area.
- Certain illnesses: The immune system kicks in when an illness strikes. This can also trigger a flare-up of psoriasis. Some illnesses, such as strep throat, ear infections, tonsillitis, and even common colds, can cause flares.
Avoiding triggers as much as possible is an integral part of managing this condition, whether on the ears, face, or other parts of the body.
Psoriasis and hearing loss
Regular ear exams may be suggested for people with psoriasis in the ears.
Even if a person has psoriasis that does not affect the skin in and around the ears, they may still experience hearing loss.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology found that people with psoriasis were more likely to develop sudden deafness.
This rapid form of hearing loss can occur immediately or over the course of a few days. It is more likely to affect people who are over the age of 50 years.
The link between psoriasis and sudden deafness is not completely clear, but it may be due to the immune system damaging part of the inner ear. Approximately 50 percent of those who experience sudden deafness regain some or all hearing spontaneously within 2–3 weeks.
Doctors may recommend that people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis get regular hearing checks to try to ensure the early detection and treatment of any problems.
Living with psoriasis in the ears
Psoriasis can be emotionally and physically challenging for many people, but they can usually manage the condition with support from a doctor.
Whether the flares occur in the ears or elsewhere, finding an effective treatment is key to minimizing symptoms and flares.
A person with psoriasis in the ears should have regular hearing checks and ear examinations to address any complications as early as possible.
Finding the right treatment may take time, as every person with the condition responds to psoriasis medications differently. Some people find that their psoriasis medication stops working over time, meaning that they require an alternative treatment.
Once people with psoriasis find an effective treatment, they should be able to lead full, active lives.
Psoriasis is a painful, chronic skin condition that can flare up inside and around the ear.
When it does this, it is more difficult to treat than psoriasis elsewhere on the body. The condition can also lead to temporary and permanent hearing loss. Although a full cure is not yet possible, people can manage the condition using medications and lead a full life.
Receive regular hearing checks and consultations to avoid severe flare-ups.
Are there any natural treatments for psoriasis in the ear?
Identifying psoriasis triggers and avoiding them to prevent a flare-up is the best treatment for this condition. Taking this action will keep psoriasis symptoms at bay for as long as possible.
If a flare-up occurs in the ear, people need to take precautions to avoid permanently damaging the eardrum. Research suggests that some natural remedies may treat mild cases of psoriasis, but people who have a severe flare-up should see a doctor immediately.
Some natural remedies that may be beneficial include jojoba oil or olive oil, which have moisturizing and antioxidant properties. People can use a cotton ball to apply a small amount of one of these oils to the affected areas of the ear.Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.