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Skin lumps

 

Skin lumps are any abnormal bumps or swellings on the skin.

Considerations

Most lumps and swellings are benign (not cancerous) and are harmless, especially the kind that feel soft and roll easily under the fingers (such as lipomas).

A lump or swelling that appears suddenly (over 24 to 48 hours) and is painful is usually caused by an injury or an infection.

Causes

 

Common causes of skin lumps include:

  • Lipomas, which are fatty lumps under the skin
  • Enlarged lymph glands, usually in the armpits, neck, and groin
  • Cyst, a closed sac in or under the skin that is lined with skin tissue and contains fluid or semisolid material
  • Benign skin growths such as seborrheic keratoses or neurofibromas
  • Boils, painful, red bumps usually involving an infected hair follicle
  • Corn or callus, caused by skin thickening in response to continued pressure (for example, from shoes) and usually occurring on a toe or foot
  • Warts, a skin virus that develops a rough, hard bump, usually appearing on a hand or foot and often with tiny black dots in the bump
  • Moles, skin-colored, tan, or brown bumps on the skin
  • Abscess, infected fluid trapped in a closed space from which it cannot escape
  • Cancer of the skin (colored or pigmented spot that bleeds easily, changes size or shape, or crusts and does not heal)

 

Home Care

 

Skin lumps from an injury can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Most other lumps should be looked at by your health care provider before you try any home treatments.

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

Call your provider if there is any unexplained lump or swelling.

 

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

 

Your provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms, including:

  • Where is the lump?
  • When did you first notice it?
  • Is it painful or growing larger?
  • Is it bleeding or draining?
  • Is there more than one lump?
  • Is it painful?
  • What does the lump look like?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

Your provider may prescribe antibiotics if you have an infection. If cancer is suspected or the provider cannot make a diagnosis by looking at the lump, a biopsy may be done.

 

 

References

James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Dermal and subcutaneous tumors. In: James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 28.

 
  • Warts, multiple - on hands

    Warts, multiple - on hands - illustration

    Warts are a very common skin condition. They frequently appear as single lesions or in small groups. This is a photograph of an unusually severe and extensive case of warts. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

    Warts, multiple - on hands

    illustration

  • Lipoma - arm

    Lipoma - arm - illustration

    A lipoma is a noncancerous growth of fatty tissue cells. A lipoma can develop in almost any organ of the body although they are most commonly found in the subcutaneous layer just below the skin.  A lipoma usually grows slowly and is a nonpainful mass that is soft and moveable under the skin. Lipomas can also be associated with other syndromes where they are not so harmless.  In the rare disease adiposis dolorosa there is swelling of the body and fatty deposits (lipomas) which apply pressure to the nerves, resulting in weakness and sometimes extreme pain. The amount of discomfort, irritation, or pain from the growth of a lipoma depends upon where in the body and what surrounding tissue or organ the lipoma has affected.

    Lipoma - arm

    illustration

  • Warts, flat on the cheek and neck

    Warts, flat on the cheek and neck - illustration

    Warts may occur on any area of the body. These are typical looking warts on the face.

    Warts, flat on the cheek and neck

    illustration

  • Wart (verruca) with a cutaneous horn on the toe

    Wart (verruca) with a cutaneous horn on the toe - illustration

    This person has a wart (verruca) that has built up a cutaneous horn which is made up of hard keratin. This does not slough-off like normal skin cells.

    Wart (verruca) with a cutaneous horn on the toe

    illustration

  • Skin lumps

    Skin lumps - illustration

    A lipoma is a benign fatty tumor found in the subcutaneous layer just below the skin. These lumps can be multiple and present for many years.

    Skin lumps

    illustration

    • Warts, multiple - on hands

      Warts, multiple - on hands - illustration

      Warts are a very common skin condition. They frequently appear as single lesions or in small groups. This is a photograph of an unusually severe and extensive case of warts. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

      Warts, multiple - on hands

      illustration

    • Lipoma - arm

      Lipoma - arm - illustration

      A lipoma is a noncancerous growth of fatty tissue cells. A lipoma can develop in almost any organ of the body although they are most commonly found in the subcutaneous layer just below the skin.  A lipoma usually grows slowly and is a nonpainful mass that is soft and moveable under the skin. Lipomas can also be associated with other syndromes where they are not so harmless.  In the rare disease adiposis dolorosa there is swelling of the body and fatty deposits (lipomas) which apply pressure to the nerves, resulting in weakness and sometimes extreme pain. The amount of discomfort, irritation, or pain from the growth of a lipoma depends upon where in the body and what surrounding tissue or organ the lipoma has affected.

      Lipoma - arm

      illustration

    • Warts, flat on the cheek and neck

      Warts, flat on the cheek and neck - illustration

      Warts may occur on any area of the body. These are typical looking warts on the face.

      Warts, flat on the cheek and neck

      illustration

    • Wart (verruca) with a cutaneous horn on the toe

      Wart (verruca) with a cutaneous horn on the toe - illustration

      This person has a wart (verruca) that has built up a cutaneous horn which is made up of hard keratin. This does not slough-off like normal skin cells.

      Wart (verruca) with a cutaneous horn on the toe

      illustration

    • Skin lumps

      Skin lumps - illustration

      A lipoma is a benign fatty tumor found in the subcutaneous layer just below the skin. These lumps can be multiple and present for many years.

      Skin lumps

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

      Talking to your MD

       

        Self Care

         

          Tests for Skin lumps

           

             

            Review Date: 4/14/2015

            Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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