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Skin lumps

Definition

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


  • 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 a 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 doesn't heal)

Home Care

Skin lumps from trauma 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 doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms, including:

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

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if you have an infection. If cancer is suspected or the diagnosis is not apparent on visual inspection, a biopsy may be done.

References

James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 28.


Review Date: 5/15/2013
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, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial Team.
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