Causes and Treatments of Lumps: Neck, Armpit, Wrist, & More
What Is a Lump?
A lump is an abnormal protuberance and a palpable mass that generally has no definite size and shape. It is a common occurrence that can grow in any part of the body and may or may not be harmful. The onset of a lump in any part of the body may also be an indication of an underlying condition or other problem.
The growth of the lump may be congenital. It can also be caused by:
- Acute or chronic trauma and inflammation
- A benign or malignant neoplasm
- Other diseases and disorders, possibly metabolic, degenerative, or hormonal in nature
The medical significance of the lump depends on the character or nature both the lump and its surrounding area. The lump may develop in different parts of the body and can originate from the muscle, bone, tendon, subcutaneous tissue, or internal organs.
In this article, you will learn about types of lumps and the causes and how they are treated based on where they occur, whether they are located in the:
Analyzing the type of the lump and the manner in which it developed is important for establishing a baseline for the diagnosis of any condition associated with the lump growth. The size, shape, consistency, and stability of the lump all account for its effect on the body.
Types of Lumps
There are different types of lumps that can grow in any part of the body. Each type has its own defining characteristics. Some will go away with time, while others warrant immediate medical attention.
Type and Risk
Body Part Where They Occur
Any part of the body; often found on legs
Dermatofibromas, characterized by the dimpling of the overlying skin, are very common.
These do not need to be treated except for cosmetic purposes.
Any part of the body
Lipomas are fatty lumps. While they are not inherently harmful and often do not need treatment, they can cause problems when they increase in size and put pressure on the surrounding tissues.
These do not need to be treated unless the area where it occurs causes painful pressure.
Any part of the body; sometimes found around piercings
Cysts are round lumps that develop under the skin and have a yellowish color. A cyst can move and feels like a pebble under the skin. It's generally harmless, and the size typically remains constant, although some may grow.
They can be drained, you can use injections to shrink them, or doctors can remove them surgically.
Warts—Benign but contagious
Often found on hands
Warts are skin-colored lumps that usually occur in clusters. They are generally harmless but are contagious and can spread to other areas of the body. They can also be transmitted to others.
These will go away with time. A doctor can remove it with salicyclic acid, freezing, or laser treatment.
Often found on arms, shoulders, and torso
Angiomas are harmless lumps composed of a collection of blood vessels that make the lumps appear bright red or slightly purplish.
These do not need to be treated, but can be removed by a doctor.
Any part of the body
Malignant tumors are the type of lump that grows rapidly. The consistency of these lumps is rather hard and immovable.
This type of lump generally requires clinical identification and urgent referral to medically manage the condition.
Causes and Treatments Based on Where They Occur
As shown in the table above, certain types of lumps are more likely to be found on certain parts of the body. And while many are not harmful, they may warrant removal if they cause discomfort because of their location. Here's what to do for lumps occurring in different parts of your body:
A lump in the throat may be a physical lump or just a sensation or feeling of having a lump in the throat. The sensation of having a lump in the throat is medically termed as globus hystericus and is often due to psychosomatic and psychological influences brought by either neurologic or psychological disorders.
A true lump in the throat on the other hand can be due to the involvement of the throat particularly in the supraglottic and subglottic areas and in the vocal cords.
The cause of a true lump in the throat can be due to several diseases and disorders such as:
- Infection of the upper respiratory tract, such as pharyngitis, tonsillitis, common cold, or laryngitis.
- Diseases involving the thyroid.
- The presence of cancer in the throat, whether in the supraglottic area, subglottic area, vocal cords, thyroid, or esophagus.
- Spastic neuromuscular disease.
Globus hystericus, or the sensation of having a lump in the throat, is treated with an antidepressant medication to calm the symptoms of depression and anxiety in the patient. A psychotherapist or a psychiatrist usually attends to patients with globus hystericus and treats patients according to the root cause of their depression and anxiety.
On the other hand, treatment for physical lumps depends on the cause or underlying condition causing the lump in the throat. Antibiotics are usually given to treat lumps caused by infection and may also be given with anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the inflammation. A lump in the throat due to cancer is treated with a combinations of medication, therapy, and surgery.
A lump that develops under the armpit is generally a swelling or enlargement of at least one of several lymph nodes located there. The lymph nodes are small clusters of immune cells that are vital in the lymphatic system, which plays a key role in the immune system.
A lump under the armpit can be asymptomatic, or it can have mild to severe pain, depending on the underlying condition that caused the lump to develop. The swelling of the lymph nodes under the arm can occur to anyone regardless of age, gender, and racial group. Although it may be harmless, a lump under the armpit may be an indication of something more serious. Women especially need to seek a medical opinion if they develop a lump in this area.
The lump under the armpit is primarily due to the swelling of one or more lymph nodes located in the armpit. The swelling can be caused by an infection, an autoimmune disorder, or certain forms of cancer.
Infectious causes of lumps under the armpit include the following:
- Bacterial infection
- Fungal infection
- Cat scratch fever
- Infection of the breast tissue or mastitis
- Viral infection
Noninfectious causes of lumps under the armpit include the following:
- Reaction to an allergic stimulant
- Unfavorable reaction toward certain vaccinations such as anti-measles and others
- Obstructed oil gland
- Bruising or trauma under the armpit, sometimes inflicted while shaving
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Lymphoma, or cancer of the lymphatic system
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Hodgkin’s disease
For women, a lump under the armpit during the menstrual cycle is a frequent occurance. Women of reproductive age regularly experience the growth of a lump under the armpit due to hormonal changes. The lump is generally palpable during the monthly cycle, although women are still advised to take a breast examination as the lump under the armpit may indicate breast cancer.
The treatment of lumps under the armpit depends on the underlying cause, although the majority of lumps need not be treated and usually resolve on their own.
Home remedies can be done to relieve the discomfort and pain caused by the lump under the armpit.
Oral antibiotics are given to treat lumps caused by an infection, while anti-histamine and other anti-allergy medications are given to treat lumps resulting from allergic reactions.
Cancerous lumps are treated medically according to the type and stage of cancer. A combination of anticancer drugs, therapy, and surgery may be done to treat the cancer causing lumps under the armpit.
A protuberance or localized swelling in the neck region can vary greatly in consistency and size. It can be hard or soft and small or large and very visible.
The neck is a complex structure composed of several muscles, tissues, and organs. Lumps can originate on the skin or in the internal structure of the neck and are usually benign or noncancerous. Neck lumps can occur singly or in groups and can affect people of all ages, genders, and races. While these lumps are usually benign and painless, sometimes they can be painful, which may indicate a more serious condition.
The swelling of the lymph nodes within the structure of the neck is the most common cause. The lymph nodes can swell for various reasons, such as inflammation, infectious disease, trauma, and benign or malignant cancerous growths.
Bacteria and viruses are the most common infectious agents that can cause the swelling of lymph nodes and lumps in the neck. Infectious causes include the following:
- Upper respiratory infection
- Infection of the salivary glands located in the neck
- Abscessed tooth
- Cat scratch disease
Noninfectious causes include the following:
- Allergic reaction
- Insect bite or sting
- Obstruction in the lymphatic system
- Benign fatty growth in the neck region
- Skin cancer both melanoma and non-melanoma
- Thyroid cancer
- Bone marrow cancer
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Grave’s disease
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes
The treatment depends on the underlying cause. It is necessary to assess the character of the lump and identify its exact location in order to pinpoint the underlying cause.
It is imperative to have the lump in the neck checked by a doctor as the growth can be life-threatening—and if it is, the success of treatment lies in early detection.
Neck lumps that result from infection are treated with oral antibiotics and other medications meant to eradicate the harmful pathogen.
Neck lumps that result from cancer can be treated with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. Head and neck cancer is generally curable when caught in the early stages.
A lump under the chin is a localized swelling. It can occur anywhere on the chin, can be unsightly, and may cause discomfort and social stigma.
The growth can be due to various reasons such as:
Injury and trauma under the chin can cause a localized protuberance. The injury can be from a violent blow, jaw fracture, vehicular accident, or other direct chin damage.
Swollen lymph nodes located under the chin are the most common cause of lumps in this part of the body. Lymph node swelling is usually caused by infection; the presence of too many harmful pathogens can give rise to localized swelling under the chin.
Warts are a viral skin growth that is contagious and can spread in any part of the body. If the virus that causes warts comes in contact with the skin on your chin, a lump may form.
The treatment depends on the underlying cause. An infectious cause can be treated with oral antibiotics and other medications. The lump can also be surgically removed, especially if the lump is rather unsightly.
The jaw is a set of bones that is responsible for holding the teeth together, and it also plays a key role in food ingestion and speech. The jaw is composed of the maxilla, which is the upper, immovable part, and the mandible, the lower and movable part of the jaw. The mandible is adjacent to the neck, where most of the lymph nodes are found. A lump that occurs under the jaw is usually caused by swollen lymph nodes.
Depending on the cause, the lump may be hard or soft, benign or cancerous. Here are the most common causes:
- Swollen lymph nodes—As previously mentioned, swollen lymph nodes are the most common cause of a lump under the jaw. Various medical conditions and factors can result in swollen lymph nodes under the jaw. The lymph nodes are housed in the lymph glands and play a key role in the immune system. The swelling of the lymph nodes can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, or race.
- Infection—If you have swollen lymph nodes, this is most likely the reason. Common infections, such as strep throat and the common cold, can result in swollen lymph nodes.
- Immune system disorders—Immune system disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc., are another reason lymph nodes may swell. If this is the cause, the lump may be hard or soft depending on its etiology.
- Metabolic diseases and allergic reactions—Two other reasons the lymph node may swell are because of metabolic diseases and allergic reactions.
- Trauma and injury—The lump may have also been caused by an injury, causing the area to swell and leading to a palpable lump.
Although lumps beneath the jaw may be harmless, a doctor should be seen to whether or not that is the case.
The lump under the jaw generally resolves on its own without medical intervention, although the swelling of the lymph nodes can take two weeks or more before it completely resolves.
If it does require treatment, that treatment will depend on the type of lump and its underlying cause. Prescription medicines are usually given to resolve the swelling due to infection and inflammation.
If pain exists, over-the-counter pain relievers and home remedies such as warm compresses can help alleviate the discomfort.
Surgery is generally not recommended unless the lump has increased in size, causing deformity or misalignment of the jaw line. Surgery may also be required if the lump is actually a cancerous tumor. The method of treatment will then depend on the size and stage of the tumor and its spread in the surrounding areas. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery may be done to treat the lump.
Surgery may also be required if the lump is actually a cancerous tumor. The method of treatment will then depend on the size and stage of the tumor and its spread in the surrounding areas. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery may be done to treat the lump.
Other Areas of the Body
Lumps located beneath the skins are localized swellings that are usually benign or noncancerous and should not cause health alarm. However, their incidence should be evaluated by a doctor to identify their cause and prescribe treatment if necessary.
Lumps under the skin can occur in any part of the body and may or may not be painful. The lump can be hard or soft and movable or immovable, depending on the type of lump that appears under the skin.
The onset of lump under the skin can be slow or rapid—some appear within 24 hours. Rapid formation of lumps under the skin is usually the result of injury and infection. There are numerous causes for the lump to develop under the skin, such as:
Swollen lymph nodes are the most common cause. The swelling of lymph nodes can be caused by infection, injury, or trauma.
Skin tag is a wart-like skin growth that usually hangs off the skin. It is generally harmless and may be left without treatment unless it causes undue discomfort.
A Cyst is an enclosed fluid-filled sac that usually grows under the skin. A sebaceous cyst is the most common type of cyst, which normally occurs when the oil gland becomes obstructed.
Lipomas are among the most common type of lump that develops under the skin. It is a fatty growth that has a rubbery consistency and forms when fat tissues are clumped together.
Folliculitis is another form of lump that develops under the skin. It is the inflammation of the hair follicle due to an infection.
Treatment depends on the type of lump that occurred. Lumps under the skin are usually harmless and noncancerous or benign, and they usually resolve themselves without medical intervention. It is, however, imperative to be seen by a doctor to properly identify the cause and determine whether the lump poses a health threat.
The lumps that develop from infection are generally treated with antibiotics and may also be given medication to reduce the swelling.
Surgical removal may also be done, although this is not always necessary. Surgical removal is recommended for growing lumps that do not resolve themselves.
A lump in the earlobe is a common occurrence defined by a localized swelling in any area of the earlobe. A lump growing in the earlobe is generally harmless and noncancerous, although it can be painful at times, depending on the type of lump that develops.
Various skin conditions and other medical conditions can cause the lump to develop in the earlobe. Although generally harmless, lumps that form in the earlobe should be seen by a doctor to identify the cause in case treatment is necessary.
Piercing is one of the most common causes of a lump in the earlobe. The localized swelling may be due to the injury that resulted from removing a piece of earlobe skin. A lump on the earlobe may also be scar tissue that formed after piercing.
Folliculitis is the inflammation of the hair follicles arising from an infection. It is among the most common cause of a lump in the earlobe.
Barotrauma is a form of injury that can affect the middle ear and is caused by a sudden change in pressure. This can cause damage to tissues of the ear, resulting in inflammation and lumps in the earlobe.
Trauma to the earlobe can result in an opening in the skin which can become infected and inflamed, causing a lump in the earlobe. A healed trauma wound may also result in a lump if scar tissue forms.
The treatment depends on the type of lump and its etiology. An infection that contributed to the development of a lump is treated with antibiotics and other medication to counteract the infection.
Lumps in the earlobe are usually harmless, benign, and noncancerous. They generally resolve on their own without any medical intervention. However, they can be surgically removed if they grow large enough to cause pain and discomfort.
Home remedies and medications to relieve the pain and reduce the swelling can also be useful.
A protuberance or localized swelling on the wrist is usually noncancerous, although it can cause significant pain if the swelling compresses the median nerve of the wrist. Joint stiffness and a limited range of motion may also occur due to the swelling and pain.
A lump in the wrist can be caused by many things, such as:
- A ganglion cyst—This is the most common cause of a lump in the wrist. It is a round cyst filled with a gel-like fluid and usually occurs in the joints and tendons of the wrist. The size of the cyst can vary from pea-sized to as large as 2.5 cm in diameter. It is generally painless unless the median nerve in the wrist is being compressed by the growing cyst.
- An injury—An injury to the wrist can also result in a lump. In fact, injuries ranging from direct blows to fractures and repetitive movements are a main cause of wrist lumps, as they can cause tendons and joints to swell.
- Tendinitis—Tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon. The inflammation can cause visible swelling.
- Infection—Infection in any area of the wrist, skin, or tissues beneath the skin of the wrist can lead to swelling.
The treatment depends on the underlying cause.
A lump in the wrist that does not increase in size, remains asymptomatic, and does not cause any discomfort to the patient generally does not need any medical intervention and can be left untreated.
A lump that causes significant pain, increases in size, and generally limits the range of motion requires medical attention for treatment and possibly surgery. Anti-inflammatory drugs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed in order to reduce the swelling and relieve the pain.
A painful cyst that causes undue discomfort may be recommended for surgical removal, especially if it remains unresponsive following conservative treatment. The goal is to free the median nerve from any pressure from the growing cyst; this will help treat the symptoms of pain and limited range of motion.