Skin lumps are any abnormal bumps or swellings on or under the skin.
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 and cysts).
A lump or swelling that appears suddenly (over 24 to 48 hours) and is painful is usually caused by an injury or an infection.
Common causes of skin lumps include:
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.
Call your provider if there is any unexplained lump or swelling.
Your provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms, including:
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 or an imaging test may be done.
James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Dermal and subcutaneous tumors. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 28.
Seller RH, Symons AB. Skin problems. In: Seller RH, Symons AB, eds. Differential Diagnosis of Common Complaints. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 29.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 6/19/2021
Reviewed By: Ramin Fathi, MD, FAAD, Director, Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group, Phoenix, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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