What Causes The Ears To Become Red And Hot?

Have you wondered what makes ears turn red and hot? Well, this could be a result of flushing or blushing. The other common causes of red hot ears are exposure to rapid temperature changes and in few cases hormonal changes. Red and hot ear is also frequently seen in individual after drinking alcohol. Red and hot ear is also caused by diseases of skin and subcutaneous tissue. Frequent occurrence of red and hot ear associated with mild to severe pain should be seen by a primary care physician for proper evaluation and treatment. Long lasting flushing of ear is caused by abnormal medical or emotional conditions, which is often exaggerated by behavioral or other external factors. Such condition must be carefully evaluated and may need proper treatment. The skin vasodilatation associated with pain and increased temperature is known as Erythermalgia. Erythermalgia is mostly observed over ear, face and neck.1

Causes of red and hot ear

Causes of Red and Hot Ears

  1. Emotional reaction
  2. Exposure to temperature changes can result in red and hot ears
  3. Exposure to chemical and irritants
  4. Hormonal changes
  5. Medication
  6. Migraine
  7. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
  8. Cervical spine disorder
  9. Food allergy

Individual feels hot ear when ear turns red or flushes. Following causes are frequently observed in red ear or flushing ear.

Reaction to Emotions Can Cause The Ears To Turn Red and Hot

Sudden vasodilatation and increased blood flow to skin and subcutaneous tissue results in flushing. The flushing of face and ear is known as blushing when it occurs after embarrassment or romantic engagement. Similarly, isolated red ear or bilateral ear flushing is observed during panic attack, anger, stress and anxiety. The ear becomes red following increased blood flow to ears secondary to vasodilatation.2 It is more noticeable in people with a fair skin.

Following emotional reaction causes red ear

  • Fear,
  • Stress,
  • Passion,
  • Embarrassment,
  • Anxiety and
  • Romantic situation

Ears Turning Red and Hot Caused Due to Exposure to Environment

Ears are naturally exposed to the atmosphere and any changes in weather or temperature can easily affect the skin around the ears. Being exposed to the sun for long, during summer or peak hours of heat, can cause reddening of ears, with hot flushing. Similarly, ear exposure to extreme cold or snow also causes red ears.

Ears Turning Red and Hot Caused Due to Exposure to Chemicals and Irritants

Ears can become red and hot when exposed to chemicals or skin irritating substances. Sometime, chemicals and skin irritants causes mild to moderate ear pain as well as itching and peeling of skin. In extreme cases painful blisters may developed that often become non-healing ulcer. Skin over the ear shows the signs of itching, peeling and blisters. Such condition may need immediate medical attention and treatment. The red and hot ear is observed when individual reacts to soap or skin lotion when rub over the ear.

Ears Turning Red and Hot Caused Due to Reaction to Hormones

Certain conditions or phases in life may result in hormonal changes. Some hormonal changes lead to dilatation of blood vessels of skin. The vasodilatation of blood vessels of ear causes red ear and face causes blushing. The red ear is thus caused by vasodilatation of blood vessels in skin and subcutaneous tissue. Hormonal changes are common during menopause. The fluctuation of estrogen and progesterone during menopause causes red ear and facial blushing.3 Hyperthyroidism causes increased secretion of thyroid hormone. Individual suffering with hyperthyroidism also frequently suffer with red ear.

Red and Hot Ears Caused Due to Medication and Treatment

Flushing and red ears may also result from hypersensitive reaction to medicines. Medications prescribed for treatment of high blood pressure, diabetes, angina and cancer occasionally shows the red ear that may or may not be paiful. The cause of red ear is possible vasodilatation. Most individual feel hot ear and particularly more, when alcohol is consumed while taking medications.

Red Ear Syndrome

It is a rare condition, in which there are episodes of redness of ears, with burning sensation and sometimes pain. This may be present in one or both ears and may last for few seconds or longer. The episodes can vary in frequency and may appear several times in a day or may be noted only few times in a year.

These symptoms may be spontaneous or brought on by certain triggers like the movements of the head or neck, chewing food, coughing, sneezing, drinking, tooth grinding or other movements of the head, face and jaw region. Sometimes, the episodes may be noted after getting exposed to heat or cold, gentle rubbing of ears, showering or hair brushing. Unlike the normal blushing or emotional response, redness of ears in the red ear syndrome, does not subside after the emotion fades,

Some conditions that can contribute to the red ear syndrome include:

  • Migraine
  • Temporomandibular dysfunction
  • Cervical spine disorder

Red and Hot Ears Associated with Migraine

Red ears may also be noted in case of migraine sufferers, especially during the episode of migraine and headache.4 There is redness of ears, with a hot sensation and a feeling of pressure around the ears and head may be present.

Red and Hot Ears Associated with Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD) –

Persons with disorders of the temporomandibular joint or jaw joint may sometimes, feel ears to be hot, red and painful.5 Most of the triggers of jaw joint pain, may even stimulate the red ear reaction. Jaw joint may be affected due to injuries, arthritis or similar joint related conditions and need thorough investigation and treatment.

Red and Hot Ears Associated with Cervical Spine Disorders –

Disorders of the neck or cervical spine can irritate the nerves and blood vessels in the surrounding area and result in red and hot ears.6

Red and Hot Ears Caused Due To Food Allergy-

Occasionally a person may feel a sensation of hot ear after eating hot food that contains chilies and hot paper. Orange juice is also known to trigger hot ear by increasing vasodilatation.7

How to Manage Red and Hot Ears?

Treatment-

Prevention- It is important to identify the cause of red and hot ears and its triggers. Avoid and eliminate use of soap, lotion or food that triggers red ear syndrome.

Treat Primary Cause- Red and hot ears caused due to TMD and cervical spine disorders need to be evaluated and treated appropriately.

Menopausal Syndrome- Treat menopausal symptoms with appropriate hormonal therapy in order to get rid of the problem of red and hot ears. You must consult gynecologist or endocrinologist.

Treat Migraine- Migraine sufferers may need preventive treatment and lifestyle changes.

Treat Emotional Fluctuation- People with high emotional response associated with red ear may need psychotherapy. Individual must consult psychiatrist for medical management and psychotherapy.

Diet Changes- Consume some diet rich in omega-3-fatty acids like fatty fish, olive oil, almonds and walnuts, whole grains like brown rice, fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of water and remain active with some form of regular exercise or walks.

When To See The Physician for Red and Hot Ear?

  • Repeated episode of red ear that is not responding to conservative treatment
  • The red ear persists for more than 72 hours.
  • You must consult primary care physician if you see frequent daily attacks for a week or weekly attacks for over a period of in one month.

References

  1. Erythema associated with pain and warmth on face and ears: a variant of erythermalgia or red ear syndrome?

    Ming-Chun Chen,#1 Qing-Fang Xu,#2 Di-Qing Luo, 3 Xiang Li,4 and Ding-Yang He3, , J Headache Pain. 2014; 15(1): 18.

  2. The red ear syndrome

    Giorgio Lambru,1 Sarah Miller,1 and Manjit S Matharu 1, J Headache Pain. 2013; 14(1): 83.

  3. The menopausal hot flush–anything new?

    Sturdee DW1., V

  4. Coexistance of migraine headache and red ear syndrome

    Ali Ulvi UCA and Hasan Hüseyin KOZAK, Noro Psikiyatr Ars. 2014 Sep; 51(3): 294.

  5. Red ear syndrome: Perspectives for the otolaryngologist.

    Hersh SP1, Hersh JN., Ear Nose Throat J. 2018 Dec;97(12):E11-E14.

    Red Ear: Syndrome or Symptom?

    de Amorim IL1, Kauppila LA1, Martins IP2., Headache. 2018 Jun;58(6):885-891.

  6. J Med Case Rep. 2014 Oct 10;8:338. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-8-338.

    Red ear syndrome precipitated by a dietary trigger: a case report.

    Chan CC1, Ghosh S.

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