Ear, Nose & Throat

Crusty ears-13 Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Crusty ears can be really uncomfortable and embarrassing for you. When the ears are very dry, and flakes start coming out of the ears, it is called as crusty ears. You will notice that flakes of skin can fall over your clothes just like dandruff.

Similar to dandruff, crusty ears can also be caused by a skin disorder called seborrheic dermatitis. But, there are many other causes of crusty ears that we shall explore below.

Crusty ears symptoms:

crusty ears
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  • Most of the conditions causing crusty ears have reddish rashes over the ears
  • These red rashes over ears have excess pruritus or itching
  • There is formation of scales or crusts over the ears
  • In some conditions causing crusty ears, there are also systemic symptoms like fever, nausea, vomiting, etc.

Crusty ears causes:

There are many causes of crusty ears. Let us explore them below.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis:

It is a skin disorder which affects the oil-rich areas or regions of the skin like scalp, ears, eyebrows, nose, etc. It is also known by many other names like seborrheic psoriasis, cradle cap in kids less than 1 year.

It is mostly caused due to a fungus r yeast infection called Malassezia furfur and also due to the impaired immune response. It is also more common in people with impaired immunity like the people suffering from HIV infections.

It produces various symptoms like:

  • Redness of skin affected
  • Itching or pruritus
  • Flakes of skin over the scalp called dandruff
  • Oily areas covered with yellow flakes or scales over the ears, eyebrows, etc leading to crusty ears

It is generally diagnosed by a dermatologist by taking a skin biopsy to examine the cells of the area affected. It is treated with antifungal medications, and also drugs called corticosteroids in lotion forms, and in oral forms if seborrheic dermatitis is very severe.

Allergic dermatitis:

Allergic contact dermatitis can occur in people who are exposed to various chemicals like cement, detergents, etc. It is commonly seen in people working in chemical and construction industries.

In this condition, there are various symptoms like:

  • Redness of the skin
  • Development of raised red rashes or bumps over the skin
  • Itching or pruritus of the raised red bumps
  • Burning sensation of the skin
  • Development of flakes or crusts over the skin, including the formation of crusty ears
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It is diagnosed based on taking a proper history of chemical exposure and physical examination. It is treated with oral steroids, and antihistaminic drugs, and with topical steroid lotions.


It is also known with the name of Atopic dermatitis. It is known to occur in children more commonly but can affect people of any age group. It occurs in association with other allergic conditions like Asthma.It produces many symptoms in the affected people like:

  • Reddish areas over the body
  • Dry skin patches
  • Itching over these red and dry areas
  • Formation of red raised bumps
  • Release of pus or fluid from these red raised areas

Eczema is known to occur in people having a family history of this disorder or in people having allergies. It is treated by doctors with corticosteroids and antihistaminic drugs.


Infection of the ears with bacteria or fungal infections mostly cause crusty ears. The risk of these infections is increased of proper hygiene is not maintained or when there is an ear piercing which is newly made.

The risk of ear infections is also more common in people with low immunity levels. These infections causing crusty ears are treated with antibiotics and antifungal medications.


Folliculitis is the infections of the hair follicles which are present at the base of the hair. In other words, hair emerges from the hair follicle, and these follicles are infected and swollen in folliculitis. Folliculitis is caused by bacteria like Staphylococcus most commonly.

Folliculitis can occur anywhere on the body where there is hair, It can so occur over the ears, leading to the formation of red bumps, flaky skin over these bumps leading to the development of crusty ears. It is treated with oral antibiotics, and antibiotic ointments to be applied topically.


Chickenpox is caused by a virus called Herpes zoster virus, belonging to the family of Human Herpesviruses or HHV. It is common in people with low immunity levels. It can occur in a person only once in a lifetime. If you get this condition once, you will not develop it again.

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Chickenpox leads to the formation of red raised bumps or vesicles all over the body starting from the trunk and then spreading elsewhere. These lesions contain contagious fluid. They are very itchy. Chickenpox is highly contagious.

If a person has chickenpox, he can develop blisters or vesicles on ears as well. They can break open and develop crusts or scab over them eventually leading to crusty ears. Chickenpox is treated with antiviral drugs like Acyclovir, antihistaminic like loratadine, and calamine lotion to apply over the lesion for a soothing effect.


Heat can also make you develop prickly heat rashes over the body including the ears. They lead to the formation of red bumps over the skin that itch and irritate a lot. When you scratch these bumps, the crust is formed over the bumps.

So, there can be the formation of crusty ears if heat rashes are formed over the ears. These heat rashes are treated by giving antihistaminics for preventing itching, and calamine lotion for a soothing effect.


Psoriasis is a chronic skin ailment that is very disturbing. People tend to develop this condition either due to heredity or as an autoimmune disorder. It can lead to an excessive multiplication of the cells of the skin leading to the formation of thick red skin patches. The symptoms of psoriasis include:

  • Reddish skin patches covered with silvery or gray scales
  • Joint pains
  • Nail abnormalities
  • Scales and crusts formation over the skin, including crusty ears
  • Bleeding from the lesions
  • Burning of the lesions
  • Itching over the skin rashes

It is a complex disorder which is treated with many modalities like corticosteroids, retinoids, salicylic acid, etc.

Otitis media:

It is the inflammation or swelling of the middle ear due to bacterial or viral infections. In this condition, there can be an accumulation of pus or fluid in the middle ear. It can follow upper respiratory tract infections.

It produces various symptoms like pain in the ears, fullness in the ears, impaired hearing, crusty ears, etc. It is treated with antibiotics like the amoxicillin-clavulanic acid combination, anti-inflammatory drugs like Diclofenac, antibiotic ear drops like ciprofloxacin, etc.

Bacterial meningitis:

Meningitis is a very dangerous condition. crusty ears are very rarely caused by this condition. In meningitis, there are many symptoms like:

  • Neck stiffness or rigidity
  • A headache that is very severe
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • High fever
  • Development of a non-blanching skin rashes or purpura
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Meningitis is diagnosed using the lab test of Cerebrospinal fluid or CSF obtained using lumbar puncture. It is treated with antibiotics.

Otitis externa:

It is the swelling or inflammation of the outer ear or outermost part of the ear. It is also known as the synonym swimmers ear. In this condition, there is the development of redness, scales, and crusts over the outer ear. It is also treated with oral and topical antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications.


It is a viral infection leading to the formation of pink colored rashes on the forehead, behind ears, etc. It also causes symptoms like crusty ears, runny nose, cough, conjunctivitis or red eyes, etc

Dry skin:

If the skin over the ears becomes dry, it can cause redness, pruritus or itching and the formation of scales or crusts, leading to crusty ears formation.

Crusty ears Treatment:

There are many home remedies that you can try to get rid of crusty ears. Some examples are:

  • Application of olive oil over the crusty ears, and massaging well. This reduces the itching redness and dryness of the ears and reduces the crusty ears symptom.
  • Application of aloe vera gel over the crusty ears. Aloe vera has antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and healing properties which help in healing the crusty ears.
  • Application of tea tree oil over the crusty ears and massaging well.
  • Using lemon juice to rub over the crusty ears as lemons can help us to get rid of infections causing crusty ears.

Crusty ears Prevention:

  • Keeping your ears clean and hygienic
  • Avoid getting ear piercing fro unhygienic places
  • Keeping the ear piercings clean
  • Getting treatment done in time for any skin disorders or other disorders that you have
  • Keeping your ears moisturized by applying moisturizer regularly
  • Reduce exposure to the sun or excess heat
  • Drink water adequately and keep yourself well hydrated

We have discussedsymptoms,ymptoms , causes, prevention and treatment of crusty ears. Hope it was informative.

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