Numerous skin conditions can cause painful lumps under the skin. Whether the lump occurs from a clogged pore, or is indicative of a more serious condition, all lumps should be checked out by a doctor at their first appearance.
Overview of painful lumps under the skin
Many glands under the skin that swell are not a cause for concern. These lymph nodes, located on both sides of the neck, underneath the jaw or behind the ears, swell when a person has a cold or a sore throat. If the infection is more serious than that of the common cold, the glands will grow while being firm yet tender. Injuries also precipitate gland swelling, including wounds like cuts or bites, or if a tumor/infection develops in a person’s head, mouth, or neck.
Causes of painful lumps under the skin
There are a few reasons why you may be experiencing painful lumps under the skin and it depends on what kind of skin condition or sickness you have that is causing the lump. Below are some of the most common lumps found under the skin to be aware of and their causes:
- Abscess – Caused by a staphylococcal bacterial infection.
- Benign Lipoma – The cause is unknown, but if it runs in a person’s family, this is a good indicator they will have it as well.
- Cherry angioma – These are common skin growths that develop on many areas of the body. They tend to appear on people 30 years of age or older.
- Contact dermatitis – Caused by an allergic reaction.
- Dermatofibromas – Results from an overgrowth of different cells in the dermis layer of the skin.
- Epidermoid cysts – These cysts develop when protein becomes trapped below the skin due to a disruption in the skin or the hair follicle.
- Folliculitis – Results from an infection of the hair follicles with Staphylococcus bacteria.
- Keratoacanthoma – This more serious lump typically appear before a person develops squamous cell carcinoma, also known as skin cancer.
- Keratosis pilaris – Resulting from a buildup of keratin, scaly plugs develop that block hair follicles. The exact cause of the keratin buildup is unknown.
- Lipomas – The causes of lipoma are not known, but they tend to appear after an injury. Also, men and women of middle-age get them more and lipomas run in families.
- Neurofibromas – This is a gene that regularly produces a protein known as neurofibromin, which regulates cell growth. When the gene mutates, it causes neurofibromin to be lost and cells then continue growing out of control.
- Skin cysts – These cysts occur because of a hair follicle being swollen.
The good thing is that the majority of lumps are benign and not a cause for alarm. There are several key things to remember about lumps that are benign:
- They are usually mobile, that is can be rolled between finger and thumb
- The lump may appear shortly after a physical trauma
- Adenomas form in the thin layer of tissue covering a person’s glands and organs
- Lipomas are non-cancerous soft tissue tumors (the most common type of non-cancerous tissue tumor)
Symptoms of lumps under the skin
The symptoms of lumps on the skin vary widely depending on what the reason is for the lumps. Below are some of the most common signs of skin lumps:
- Slow growth
- Grows in size
- Does not go away or heal over time
- Lump moves or changes shape when touched
- Pain - they can be painless or pain may be felt in the lump during activity
- Dome-shaped or egg-shaped
- Rubber or dough-like consistency
- Located just underneath the skin
- Boils appear
- Moles form
How to treat painful lumps under the skin
The type of lump determines the type of treatment. For care at home, ice packs, taking a baking soda bath or using fever-reducing medication all prove effective in providing relief for the lumps. Normally, skin lumps go away over time as the swelling subsides. To speed up this process, elevating the affected area along with applying ice reduces inflammation and eases pain.
Another treatment option is prescription medication. Antibiotic medications are best suited for treatment if the lumps under your skin are the result of infection or abscess. Most likely, your doctor will prescribe a topical medication to treat your lump. Topical ointments or creams perform well against acne, rashes, bumps, and warts.
Injections have also been effective for treating lumps on the skin. Corticosteroids are the recommended type of injection prescribed by your doctor. As these are strong, anti-inflammatory drugs, they work quickly to reduce the pain of the lumps. The only drawbacks of a corticosteroid injection are the side effects that come with its use.
- Skin color loss
- Soft tissue shrinkage
Surgery is the last option unless you have cancer that has to be removed immediately due to it being life-threatening. Lumps coupled with continued pain are a good indication that surgery may be required. The type of lumps that require surgery are detailed below:
- Cancerous tumors or moles
Frequently asked questions:
Once you arrive at your medical provider’s office, they will give you a physical exam and ask you in-depth questions about your symptoms and address any other concerns you have going forward with your treatment. Some of the more common questions include:
1. Where is the lump located?
2. When did you first realize you had a lump?
3. Has it grown larger since you first noticed it?
4. Is the lump painful?
5. Do particular activities make the pain of the lump worse?
6. How does the lump appear on your body?
7. What are the other symptoms you are experiencing at this time?
These questions help your doctor determine if your lump is of a benign or serious nature. If you have any of the skin lumps mentioned, or if your lump matches the symptoms of any above, contact your doctor to determine your best course of action.