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Crusty Ears Causes, Symptoms, with Discharge and Treatment


If you have ever suffered from crusty ears, then you can attest that this health condition does not only cause discomfort, but it is also very embarrassing. A crusty ear is a common health condition characterized with dry and flaky ears. Having crusty ears is a sign of a skin condition such as seborrheic dermatitis.

Psoriasis on neck and ears causing crusty ears
Having psoriasisi can cause crusty, flaky ear near ear canal or behind ears

In this context, crusty ears may be a primary symptom of a serious skin condition or a simple skin rash. This skin condition may affect both the external and internal regions of the ear. Dry, flaky ears are a psychological bother to the victims, as this condition comes along with extreme itching. In most instances, one has to scratch the itching ears in public. Therefore, it is advisable to see a dermatologist when the itching and ear dryness prolong.


Like any other region of the skin, the ears can get rashes. If you are having crusty ears, you are likely to see the following symptoms:

  • The affected region of the ear experiences spots, tiny bumps and blistering, especially on the rear side of the ear. In most cases, the blisters are characterized with prolonged pain, itching and irritation. This irritation causes the blisters to be fluid-filled.
  • Some pimples may also be noted on the areas surrounding the ear. Within a few days, the pimples become numerous in number. The pimples are also severely itchy.
  • The areas affected by the rash appear swollen. Within a few days, the rash may turn reddish or pinkish. This red or pink color is as a result of skin irritation.
  • In severe cases, victims may get extreme fever and vomiting. However, itching is the primary continuous symptom of crusty ears.


No single factor can be noted to be the cause of crusty ears. If you are having crusty ears, then, this might be a fungal or bacterial infection. In other instances, the rash may be an indication of a serious health condition. Cleaning the ear canal regularly and vigorously can also cause crusty ears. Below are some of the possible causes of crusty ears:

  • Dermatitis- Your ear might be reacting to an allergic chemical that it was exposed to. As a result of this reaction, your ear is likely to become inflamed, itchy and red. Reducing exposure to the substance causing the irritation reduces the allergic reaction. In other instances, use of antibiotics may reduce the itching and consequently heal the ear.
  • Eczema- This is a common skin disorder that may spread even to the ears. Eczema causes itching, rashes, inflammation and redness in the affected regions. If you are experiencing these symptoms in your ears, then you can’t rule out having an eczema infection.
  • Diverse Infections- Being an external body organ, your ears are exposed to many disease-causing organisms such as viruses, bacteria and fungus. These organisms, in some instances, may cause infections in the ear. Piercing your ears or putting ear buds in the ears may also introduce these organisms, thus causing your ears to be infected.
  • Presence of Heat Rashes- When exposed to extreme heat, the sweat glands get blocked. Consequently, the skin is not able to excrete moisture and sweat. As a result of the accumulated sweat and moisture, the skin becomes itchy, red, flaky and crusty.
  • Measles Infection- Measles victims usually suffer from increased fever and skin irritation. Skin rashes that are associated with measles are always experienced behind the ears and on the forehead.
  • Extreme Dry Skin- When your skin is dehydrated; it is likely to get crusty. Skin dryness comes along with scaling, itching and inflammation. People who have dry skins, therefore, are more successptible to crusty ears than those with oily skins.
  • Diverse Infections in the Middle Ear- Some viral and bacterial infections in the middle ear are manifested in the external ear. These infections come along with chills, fever, redness of the skin, scaling and severe inflammation. All these symptoms are witnessed on the external ear.
Crusty ears due to eczema near ear canal
Crusty ear : Otitis externa © Klaus D. Peter, Gummersbach, Germany  Attribution 3.0 Germany (CC BY 3.0 DE) (eczema)

Crusty ear with discharge

Crusty ear discharge is also known as crusty ear wax. Crusty ear discharge precedes most ear infections, including crusty ears condition. Infections in the ear canal or in the middle ear are mainly manifested in the form of ear wax. Later, these infections are manifested in the external regions of the ear. The common manifestation of these infections is a rash known as crusty ears characterized with severe itching.

Crusty on cartilage

As you have noted in the above subtopics, crusty ear, as an infection, mainly targets the outer ear. Medically, the outer ear consists of cartilage. This cartilage is surrounded by a thin layer known as perichondrium. This perichondrium forms the largest part that is targeted by skin rash. The perichondrium becomes red with a lot of pain and swelling. It also becomes very itchy. In this context, crusty ear cartilage becomes a common aspect of crusty ears.

Crusty inside canal

In some extreme cases, crusty ear infection moves beyond the outer ear. In this regard, crusty skin spreads to the ear canal. This condition is known as crusty ear canal. The ear canal becomes dry following the emergence to blisters and rashes. The canal also becomes severely itchy. In most cases, crusty ear canal is itchier than the outer ear in regard to crusty ear. The victims find themselves pushing ear bands or other substances inside the canal in an attempt to ease the itching.


Crusty ears are not only a medical issue but also an embarrassment. If you have been having crusty ears, it is advisable to seek medical help promptly. Below are some of the treatments and precautions that provide relief to crusty ears:

  • Use of topical antibiotics
  • Use of oral antibiotics and antifungal
  • Avoidance of harsh soaps as a home remedy
  • Regularly moisturizing the skin
  • Wearing light clothes that do not irritate the infected region of the ear
  • Use of icepacks to ease the irritation
  • Washing the infected region with medicated shampoos
  • Use of humidifiers
  • Reduce heat exposure as it increases the irritation
  • Use of phototherapy
  • Having sufficient time to rest
  • Use of OTC lotions
  • Intake of huge amounts of water
  • Use of eardrops


As always noted, prevention is better than cure. Having crusty ears is likely to ruin most of your days. In this regard, practicing the following measures may significantly help in preventing crusty ears:

  • Always keep your ears dry
  • Use rubbing alcohol in your ears after swimming
  • Take caution when cleaning the outer ear. Use a gentle piece of cloth
  • Keep off from dirty water especially when swimming
  • Always keep your ear canal from soap and shampoo to avoid irritation

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