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Psoriasis in Ears: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Posted on February 25, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Article written by
Amanda Agazio, Ph.D.

The ear is among the most frustrating places to experience symptoms of psoriasis, whether around the ear, behind it, or in the ear canal. When psoriasis affects the ears, it can lead to a particular set of symptoms — including temporary hearing loss — and require specialized treatment.

“I can't believe it: in my ears,” shared one member of the MyPsoriasisTeam. “I thought this was an external skin thing only. Arghh!”

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that can affect many areas of the body, including the ears. Among its most prominent symptoms are areas of painful, itchy, discolored, dry, or scaly skin.

Symptoms of Ear Psoriasis

Symptoms of ear psoriasis include:

  • Dry patches of skin on or around the ear, appearing red in color on lighter skin and purple on darker skin
  • The formation of crusty silvery or gray scales, called plaques
  • Temporary hearing loss
  • The feeling of a blockage inside the ear
  • Otitis externa (inflammation of the external ear canal, also known as swimmer’s ear)
  • Tenderness, burning, or itching outside or within the ear
  • A buildup of scaly skin in the ear canal

Temporary hearing loss is perhaps the most concerning complication associated with ear psoriasis. Hearing loss can occur as a result of the buildup of plaques and scales that block the inner ear canal.

People with psoriasis are also more likely to experience a type of hearing loss known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL). SSNHL can affect individuals with psoriasis, even if they don’t have psoriasis in their ears. The cause of SSNHL is unknown, but scientists believe it’s related to an autoimmune attack on a part of the inner ear called the cochlea.

Treatment for Ear Psoriasis

There are many treatment options for ear psoriasis. Because the skin of the ear is delicate and sensitive, a gentle approach is often used first.

Over-the-Counter and Topical Treatments

Topical treatments and ear drops can help with psoriasis symptoms. Topical treatments may contain corticosteroids, which help reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. Topical creams with vitamin D, such as Dovonex (calcipotriene), may also be used. Another available option is cream containing retinoids, such as Tazorac (tazarotene).

Over-the-counter moisturizers may also be useful in treating the affected skin. To minimize irritation to your skin, choose moisturizing products that are free of alcohol, artificial preservatives, and fragrances. Some moisturizers contain ingredients such as salicylic acid or coal tar to help remove scales, or colloidal oatmeal or petrolatum to repair the skin’s moisture barrier.

Systemic Treatments

Options beyond topical treatments include oral or systemic corticosteroids, which circulate through the entire body. A person living with psoriasis may also be treated with biologics, which are medications that block proteins and immune cells involved in the development of psoriasis.

Read more about oral and systemic treatments for psoriasis.

Removal of Buildup in the Ear

Having excess tissues removed from your ear can help alleviate temporary hearing loss. Importantly, you should have a doctor remove the buildup of skin and scales from the ear canal. If you attempt it yourself, you may accidentally push the skin into your ear, increasing your risk of eardrum damage and infection.

Causes of Psoriasis in the Ears

Psoriasis is a skin disease caused by a person’s immune system attacking their own skin. Excess inflammation and activity by the immune system causes skin cells to replicate out of control. Overactive skin-cell production leads to skin buildup, which often appears as the discolored lesions covered with gray or silvery scales characteristic of psoriasis. This response can occur on skin all over the body, including the ears.

Factors that can make psoriasis worse or lead to a flare-up of ear psoriasis may include:

  • Cold weather
  • Skin injury
  • Some medications
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Sunburn
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Infection

Will My Ear Psoriasis Go Away?

There is no cure for psoriasis. However, as experts learn more about the condition, inflammation, and the immune system, more effective treatments are being developed to make symptoms more manageable. Talk with your doctor about available treatment options and recommended lifestyle changes that can help manage your psoriasis.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 87,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.

Has psoriasis in the ears impacted your life? What treatments work for you? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Amanda Agazio, Ph.D. completed her doctorate in immunology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Her studies focused on the antibody response and autoimmunity. Learn more about her here.

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