A lump in the armpit can be caused by a lipoma cyst, ingrown hair after shaving, cancer, thyroid problems etc. In some cases, a lump under the armpit is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, pus drainage, bad smell, bruising and nausea. A biopsy or ultrasound may be used by your doctor to determine the cause and course of treatment. Here’s more on causes and treatment of small and large, hard and tender painful lumps in the armpits.
An armpit lump is an enlargement, swelling or raised bump in either the left armpit or right armpit. Sometimes, you can get knots in both armpits. Both males and females can get underarm lumps that can be small, tender or big and hard. While it can go away on its own, an itchy and painful lump under armpit can be a cause of worry and discomfort. It will need treatment or at least home remedies.
Lump in armpit pictures
What do lumps in the armpit look like? It is easy to confuse them with bumps from shaving, ingrown hair or even normal lymph nodes that are enlarged. Pictures, images or photos included on this page should help you identify your symptom. We have also included pictures of cancer lumps under the armpit.
Causes or why do I have a lump under my armpit?
What causes a lump in the armpit? A number of reasons can account for those lumps, bumps, and knots in the armpit. For both males and females, most causes are similar, except for a few as discussed below. Causes range from less serious illnesses to serious ones like cancer.
You might notice that you have a hard lump after a vaccination shot, after shaving, after mastectomy and breast augmentation. For other people, small armpit lumps may be caused by infections, STDs, allergies, acne, stress etc. Below are the causes in detail.
1. Lump under armpit after shaving
Why do I have a lump under my armpit after shaving? Shaving often causes razor burn and razor bumps. People who shave the underarms can easily get lumps or bumps due to the irritation of the skin from razors.
Bumps under armpit are not accurately lumps. If you get these from shaving, they are as a result of irritation of the skin, with some hairs curling back and growing into the skin. The bumps start as small armpit pimples and can grow into cysts and big bumps.
2. Ingrown hair bump under arms
Another consequence of shaving that is closely related to razor bumps is an ingrown hair. Ingrown armpit hair lumps occur when shaved hair when growing back, curls back into the skin. It can grow sideways too and cause ingrown armpit hair bumps.
Do not confuse other serious lumps with ingrown hair. The latter will have a dark spot in the center. The spot represents the hair follicle trapped under the skin. Ingrown armpit lumps are not a serious problem and should go away on their own. But when infected with bacteria, an ingrown hair cyst can form under the armpits and may need treatment with antibiotics.
3. Swollen or Enlarged lymph node
Why do I have a swollen lump under armpit? The third most likely cause of a lump in the armpit is a swollen lymph node. Mayo Clinic notes that enlarged lymph nodes are common in areas of the body such as the neck, behind ears, jawline, groin area, and the armpits.
A painful lump is due to infections. As the lymph glands attempt to fight off viral, fungal and bacterial infections, they become swollen and begin to hurt. “The glands in the armpit can swell to more than a few centimeters in response to infection or illness. Swollen glands usually go down when you recover.” [Source – nhs.uk].
Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit may be accompanied by other symptoms such as tenderness (tender lump under the armpit), fever and night sweat similar to those during menopause, all signaling an infection.
4. Painless lump under armpit from lymphoma
Lymphoma, also called lymphatic cancer shows symptoms including a painless lump. According to the Cancer Research UK website, one of the most common symptoms of a type of cancer called Hodgkin lymphoma is a lump under the armpit that is not painful. This knot can also occur in the neck or groin as these are the primary areas with lymph glands in the body.
“About 7 out of every 10 people (70%) diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma have a swollen lymph node (in the groin, neck or underarm). Other symptoms may include heavy sweating, especially at night, itching in the underarm area and unexplained weight loss.
5. Antiperspirants, allergy, and deodorants
Can antiperspirants and deodorants cause bumps under your armpits? Yes, reaction to chemicals in the products can cause a reaction that leaves raised bumps on the skin. Another reason is that antiperspirants are meant to stop excessive sweating. This can cause bumps due to clogged sweat pores on the skin.
Armpit pimples and bumps are common after exercise or after lifting weights especially because you are likely to have used antiperspirants to control too much sweat.
Allergic reactions can also occur from some drugs. These include iodine, sulfa and penicillin. In such a case, the lumps usually go away when the allergen or irritant is removed.
6. Painful lump in armpit from Hidradenitis Suppurativa
Do you have an axillary lump that hurts to touch? A painful underarm lump in both teenage males and females is sometimes caused by an infection called Hidradenitis Suppurativa. This is the infection of sweat glands by bacteria. The inflammation may spread to the groin area and cause symptoms including:
- Armpit bumps that hurt
- Swelling around the underarm area
- Boils in the underarm area, or small nodules that may bleed or drain pus
Oral antibiotics are used to relieve and treat the painful axillary lumps. Since the infection of sweat glands is common in men than in women, your doctor might prescribe anti-androgens as a conclusive treatment. Other medications include immunomodulatory treatments. Underarm lump surgery is also an option to get rid of inflamed sweat glands.
7. Lipoma or movable armpit lump
Lipoma, sebaceous cysts or fatty lumps can also form under the skin in armpits. It is a “fatty lump that’s most often situated between your skin and the underlying muscle layer.” [Mayo Clinic]. The fatty cells accumulate within a thin fibrous capsule beneath your skin. This makes them movable, jelly-like lumps as they move around with skin. Symptoms include the following:
- Lipoma lumps are “Are movable and have a soft, rubbery consistency.” [WebMD]
- They are painless soft tissue growths
- Painless axillary lumps or knots.
- Do not increase in size (will remain roughly the same size for years)
Since they don’t hurt, armpit lipomas and sebaceous cysts are usually left to go away on their own. If they are big or large enough to cause esthetic discomfort, they may be surgically removed after a biopsy or ultrasound to ascertain they are indeed lipoma growths.
8. Breast cancer armpit lump in females
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization reports that a painful lump under armpit in females or women is likely to be a sign of breast cancer. “Lymph node status is related to tumor size. The larger the tumor, the more likely it is that the breast cancer is lymph node-positive (the axillary lymph nodes contain cancer).” See a picture below of breast cancer in relation to the axillary lymph nodes.
Typically, lumps, hard bumps, swellings and recurrent pimples around the armpits, collarbone can be a sign of breast cancer that infects the lymph nodes in these areas. Sometimes, this is a precursor sign that may occur even before you can feel a lump in your breast.
Immunizations can have their own side effects, especially at or near the site of injection. Some vaccines can cause swollen lymph nodes in the armpits. According to Arti Sharma, MD [MedHelp.org], “Mild effects of Tdap vaccines are tiredness and swollen lymph nodes. While Hepatitis A vaccine can cause blisters, fever and swollen glands in the armpit, neck or groin.”
If you had cold symptoms and got a flu shot, you are also likely to get almost similar side effects in areas with lymph nodes. Some doctors advise that you see your GP for proper examination and treatment since there could be no relation to the shot you got.
10. Armpit cyst, boil or zit
Abscesses, cysts, and zits can start as large lumps in the armpit. These mostly occur from infected shaving bumps. Infected bumps and ingrown hair cysts, usually from staph or MRSA infections can grow into large lumps, boils or zits.
Cysts are usually pus-filled. Yellow bumps or pimples in the armpit indicate an infection going on. Green pus is also a sure sign of infection – usually a bacterial infection at an advanced stage.
11. Viral infection, STD, HIV, and Herpes
Shingles, HIV-AIDS, herpes, chickenpox and other viral infections, including some STDs are also known to show signs under the armpits. Lymph nodes can filter out cells of infectious pathogens in the lymph and swell up. The resultant sore swollen lump in the armpit is caused by inflammation as your immune system tries to get rid of the foreign cells.
12. Thyroid or hyperthyroidism
When there is an overproduction of thyroid hormones in the body, a lump in the armpit is likely to occur. The glands in your armpit can swell and can easily be mistaken for an infected armpit lump.
Other than thyroid problems, stress or hormonal changes during a period and during pregnancy can cause lumps underarms. These are caused by overproduction of sebum that clogs pores and causes pimples, whiteheads and such bumps to develop.
13. Breast augmentation and mastectomy lumps
Surgical procedures around the breast area, such as mastectomy and breast augmentation can also lead to lumps or hard knots in the armpit. The most common type is known as siliconomas. These are small and tender raptures from silicone breast implants that spread outside the scar capsule. They lead to “small lumps known as siliconomas developing.”
On the other hand, post-mastectomy armpit lumps could be a symptom of recurring breast cancer (breast cancer recurrence or distant metastasis). These can happen even six months or more after the removal of cancer affected breast tissue. Another explanation is that melanoma or skin cancer around the armpit could be forming. See your doctor as soon as possible if you see such symptoms.
What does a lump under your armpit mean? In general, those are the possible causes and meanings of axillary lumps. Vascular or vein problems and lymphedema, some diseases and growths can cause underarm lumps that can be pea-sized or even the size of a golf ball. Growths can be painful or painless, but such symptoms should never be ignored as they could mean the presence of cancer in both men and women.
Other than finding axillary lumps, you might experience a number of symptoms with them too. Pain, visible growth, itching, tiredness, and fever are some a few of the common symptoms of infections. Here are some of the symptoms related to bumps in the armpit.
- An associated lump in the groin, probably due to swollen lymph nodes.
- Breast pain or pain around the underarm. It can be dull pain or sharp pain.
- Some people can have an armpit lump for years. It may also be one that goes away comes back.
- Knots in armpit growing fast and getting bigger can be tumors and should be reported to your dermatologist immediately you notice them.
- An itchy underarm lump should not be ignored. It could be a wart or a cancerous growth.
- Ingrown hair cysts are known for leaking fluid or pus, especially when popped, bruised or squeezed. This is likely to smell bad.
- Not visible or deep lumps in the left armpit or right armpit.
- Nausea in some cases, accompanied by tiredness and fatigue.
Red lump under armpit male
Lumps appear in men and women almost equally. However, according to some sources, a lump in the armpit in males is due to excessive sweating or a condition described above as Hidradenitis suppurativa. Mostly, if the men work out a lot at the gym, they are likely to get red lumps due to inflammation or trauma from skin contact.
According to NHS, a lump in males and females that feels warm and appears red is an indication of an infection. It could also be a sign of injury on the skin around the armpit. Report it to your GP for further advice, diagnosis, and treatment.
Tender lump under armpit female
In women, tender lumps are a likely to be a sign of breast infection or breast cancer. If the lump is big or larger than the size of a golf ball, it could be a sign of breast tissue extension too. This condition is called hypreradenia.
Hypreradenia is characterized by a big hard lump in the armpit region and is common during pregnancy when there is rapid tissue growth. There’s likely to be a reduction in the size of the lump after breastfeeding. When there is an infection of the breast tissue, you are likely to experience a painful female armpit lump. It could be sore to touch too.
Pea-sized or small lump under armpit
What is the normal size of a lump that appears on the skin? Little bumps can easily grow into large lumps. In some people, a large lump can appear as a growth or tumor. In other circumstances, axillary lumps can grow large from pea-sized balls to golf-sized lumps.
- In case you see a small knot growing fast at an alarming rate, see a doctor for a biopsy or diagnosis.
- Large painful lumps can be an indication of a viral infection or cancer.
- Some benign tumors can also start from pea-sized knots and grow into bigger ones. These might require surgical removal.
Large hard lump under armpit
A large or growing hard lump under your armpit can be a serious sign that should never be ignored. According to Dr. PJ Hamel of Health Guide, both viral and fungal infections can cause hard lumps in the armpit and areas near the breast.
Other than these normal infections, it is easy to get a tough or hard lump from cancer. Such can be either painful or painless and should never be ignored. In some cases, lipomas and sebaceous cysts can also present as hard fatty growths in the armpit. Either way, if you discover a hard growing cyst in your armpits, check with your dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment.
Lump under armpit treatment and how to get rid of an armpit lump
Treatment will depend on the cause. Cancer growths are surgically removed or treated with chemotherapy. Some home remedies can relieve pain from ingrown hairs and razor bumps etc. Here’s how to get rid of a lump in the armpit with various treatments.
When the lump is a symptom of a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Oral antibiotics are common forms of treatment as they act faster. After a course of treatment is complete, the symptoms should start to disappear.
Doxycycline, erythromycin, and clindamycin are some of the antibiotic treatments that may be administered. Note that if your swollen lymph nodes in the armpit are caused by a viral or fungal infection, treatment for that cause will relieve the swelling.
Hot/warm compress home remedy
Warm compresses are good for easing pain and inflammation. Make a warm compress by immersing a washcloth in hot water. Allow it to cool a little bit. Apply to the affected area with a painful lump under the armpit. Set it for 15 minutes and repeat 4 times a day.
Warm compresses can only relieve pain and are a short-term remedy. Proper treatment should be applied to get rid of the underlying cause of the armpit bump.
If you are breastfeeding with a lump that hurts, avoid prolonged engorgement before nursing. You should also try different positions to breastfeed in order to find the most comfortable or least painful position.
Vitamin E natural cure
If you prefer home remedies to get rid of a lump in the armpit, use vitamin E. It is a powerful antioxidant that can get rid of those lumps fast. It is also known to reduce swelling by preventing the buildup of fluid in the lymph nodes. Here’s how to get rid of a lump under armpit with vitamin E.
- Obtain vitamin E oil capsules.
- Massage the lump with the oil for about 3 minutes.
- Repeat two to three times a week.
You can also increase vitamin E foods in your diet. These include almonds, sunflowers, asparagus, extra virgin olive oil and turnip greens.
Apple cider vinegar
Another remedy that can help dry up the lump is apple cider vinegar. It will also relieve pain and swelling. Apple cider vinegar has antibiotic and antiseptic properties.
- Make a solution of apple cider vinegar by mixing it with water in equal amounts.
- Soak a cotton ball with the solution.
- Apply it on the area of your skin with an underarm lump.
- Allow it to remain that way for about 5 minutes.
- Rinse off with warm water.
- Use a clean towel to pat dry.
Repeat this cure twice a day until the lump dries or dissolves away.
Surgery to remove a lump in armpit
Another course of treatment involves surgical removal. Large lumps and lipomas that cause discomfort can be removed through surgery. This procedure is only done at the surgeon’s office with an appointment. Do not attempt to remove underarm growths yourself.
Before a decision is made on whether surgery will be used, the size of the lump must be examined. Only large lipomas or sebaceous cysts require surgery. A biopsy is also done, or an ultrasound to determine what the lump is. “The tumor (not cancer) can then be dissected from the surrounding tissue and teased out of the small incision.” [Realself.com]
Sources and References
- Wikipedia: Ingrown Hair Signs and Symptoms
- NHS: Lumps and Swellings
- Mayo Clinic: Swollen lymph nodes
- Cancer Research UK: Symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma
- Buddy MD: Hidradenitis Suppurativa – Infection of the Sweat Glands
- WebMD: Lipoma Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and More
- Susan G Komen: Lymph node status and tumor size
- Livestrong: Weightlifting and armpit cysts
- NHS: Breast implants – Complications
- HealthLine: Breast Infection