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Skin lumps

Definition

Skin lumps are any abnormal bump or swelling on the skin.

Considerations

Many people wonder if small bumps or lumps on the body are something to worry about. Most lumps and swellings are benign (not cancerous) and are harmless, especially the kind that feel soft and roll easily (lipomas).

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

Common Causes

  • Lipomas, 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.

Call your health care provider if

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

What to expect at your health care provider's office

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you questions 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, a biopsy may be done.


Review Date: 5/13/2011
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, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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