Groin Lump Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions
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Understand your groin lump symptoms with Buoy, including 9 causes and common questions concerning your groin lump.
Groin lump symptoms
The groin, or inguinal region, is the area between the abdomen and the thigh on either side of the pubic bone. Groin lumps can be caused by a variety of conditions from less emergent to more emergent described in further detail below. Before seeking care for a groin lump, it may be helpful to take note of some of the following characteristics as your medical provider will likely evaluate for them.
Common characteristics of a groin lump
A lump in this area can be concerning as it is often associated with symptoms such as:
- Pain or discomfort: Especially when changing positions
- A heaviness or dragging sensation in the groin
- A burning or aching sensation
- Changes in the appearance of the lump during activities: Such as standing, coughing or straining
Make an appointment with your physician if you experience these symptoms in order to get appropriate treatment and counseling.
Groin lump causes
There are various specific structures within the groin region muscles, nerves, arteries, and ligaments.
- Muscles: The muscles of the groin are the adductor muscles. These muscles allow you to bring your thighs together and work with other muscles in movements such as bringing the knees to the chest. Furthermore, the muscles of the abdomen also connect in this area.
- Nerves: The nerve that provides sensation and innervation to the groin area is the obturator nerve. Other nerves such as the femoral and lateral cutaneous also pass through this area but do not give direct sensation to the groin.
- Lymphatics: Underneath the skin, there are three to five lymph nodes structures throughout the body that play an important role in allowing the body to fight off infections.
- Inguinal ligament: The inguinal ligament is a band of fibrous tissues that help protect and support the other tissues of the lower extremities. The inguinal ligament forms the bottom of the inguinal canal (a triangle-shaped opening in the groin where the spermatic cord (the cord that holds up the testicles) passes from the abdomen to the scrotum in men.
A hernia occurs when part of an organ pushes through an opening or weakness in the muscles /tissues that surround it. The protruding organ can result in a noticeable lump or bulge in the area. Hernias in the groin are called inguinal hernias, and there are two types that can form.
- Direct: This type of inguinal hernia occurs when the abdominal muscles become weak. A portion of the intestine can push through this weakened wall and form a lump in the groin.
- Indirect: This type of inguinal hernia occurs due to a defect during infant development. In boys, a structure called the inguinal ring allows the testicles to drop into the scrotum during development but closes after the process completes. When the ring does not close properly, a part of the intestine can push through creating a lump in the groin.
See this image here for a visual representation of the structural differences between a direct and indirect hernia.
Other causes of groin lumps may include the following.
- Lymphatic: The lymph nodes are structures that contain immune cells that fight infection and filter harmful substances from the body. When these structures become infected, they can swell and result in palpable lumps. The groin contains many lymph nodes that are susceptible to infection and swelling. If swollen lymph nodes are causing the lump in your groin, you may also experience tenderness and fever as well.
- Cancerous: Testicular or penile cancers may also present as swollen lymph nodes in the groin, so it is very important to follow-up with your physician if you notice a lump in that area accompanied by symptoms such as pain, weight loss or dull aches in the lower abdomen.
- Dermatologic: The groin (similar to the armpit, buttocks and under the breasts) is an area that naturally contains hair follicles surrounded by many oil and sweat glands. The chronic, long-term skin condition hidradenitis suppurativa can develop in such areas and result in multiple, painful and inflamed lumps under the skin. Moreover, the groin is an area often covered by clothing, which can further exacerbate this inflammatory dermatologic condition.
9 groin lump conditions
The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced groin lump. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
A cyst is a small sac or lump, filled with fluid, air, fat, or other material, that begins to grow somewhere in the body for no apparent reason. A skin cyst is one that forms just beneath the skin.
It's believed that skin cysts form around trapped keratin cells – the cells that form the relatively tough outer layer of the skin.
These cysts are not contagious.
Anyone can get a skin cyst, but they are most common in those who are over age 18, have acne, or have injured the skin.
Symptoms include the appearance of a small, rounded lump under the skin. Cysts are normally painless unless infected, when they will be reddened and sore and contain pus.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination. A small cyst can be left alone, though if it is unsightly or large enough to interfere with movement it can be removed in a simple procedure done in a doctor's office. An infected cyst must be treated so that the infection does not spread.
Top Symptoms: skin-colored armpit bump, marble sized armpit lump, small armpit lump
Symptoms that always occur with skin cyst: skin-colored armpit bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
A groin abscess is caused by an infection of the skin or area right under the skin. The infection is typically caused by a bacteria, which your body reacts to by creating a ball of inflammation around the bacteria.
Top Symptoms: groin pain, constant groin lump, lump on one side of the groin, painful lump in one side of the groin, hard groin lump
Symptoms that always occur with groin abscess: lump on one side of the groin, constant groin lump
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Enlarged lymph nodes in the groin
Enlarged lymph nodes occur when the node becomes larger as it fills with inflammatory cells. This often is a result of an infection but can occur without a known cause.
Top Symptoms: groin lump, movable groin lump
Symptoms that always occur with enlarged lymph nodes in the groin: groin lump
Symptoms that never occur with enlarged lymph nodes in the groin: fever, unintentional weight loss, hard groin lump
Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit
A skin abscess is a large pocket of pus that has formed just beneath the skin. It is caused by bacteria getting under the skin, usually through a small cut or scratch, and beginning to multiply. The body fights the invasion with white blood cells, which kill some of the infected tissue but form pus within the cavity that remains.
Symptoms include a large, red, swollen, painful lump of pus anywhere on the body beneath the skin. There may be fever, chills, and body aches from the infection.
If not treated, there is the risk of an abscess enlarging, spreading, and causing serious illness.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination.
A small abscess may heal on its own, through the body's immune system. But some will need to be drained or lanced in a medical provider's office so that the pus can be cleaned out. Antibiotics are usually prescribed.
Keeping the skin clean, and using only clean clothes and towels, will help to make sure that the abscess does not recur.
Top Symptoms: rash with bumps or blisters, red rash, red skin bump larger than 1/2 cm in diameter, pus-filled rash, rash
Symptoms that always occur with skin abscess: rash with bumps or blisters
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Lipoma is a word that translates as "fatty tumor," but a lipoma is not cancer. It is simply a growth of fat between the muscle layer and the skin above it.
The exact cause is not known. The condition does run in families and is associated with other unusual syndromes such as adiposis dolorosa, which is similar. Lipomas most often appear after age 40.
Symptoms include a soft, easily moveable lump beneath the skin, about two inches across. A lipoma is painless unless its growth is irritating the nerves around it. They are most often found on the back, neck, and abdomen, and sometimes the arms and upper legs.
It is a good idea to have any new or unusual growth checked by a medical provider, just to make certain it is benign.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination, biopsy, and imaging such as ultrasound or CT scan.
Most of the time, treatment is not necessary unless the lipoma is unsightly or is interfering with other structures. It can be removed through surgery or liposuction.
Top Symptoms: skin-colored groin bump, marble sized groin lump, small groin lump
Symptoms that always occur with lipoma: skin-colored groin bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
A groin hernia, also called an inguinal hernia, means that a structure in the lower abdomen – a loop of intestine or a section of fat – has pushed through the muscles of the abdominal wall. This creates a bulge, or hernia, that can be seen and felt in the groin.
A hernia is caused by a weak spot in the abdominal wall muscles, which can separate under heavy lifting or repeated straining. The weakness may be inherited or may be from previous surgery, injury, or pregnancy.
Symptoms include a bulge low down in the abdomen, most visible when the person stands; and pain in the bulge with any strain on the abdominal muscles, such as lifting a heavy object or bending over.
A hernia will not heal on its own. There is the risk of serious complications if the blood supply to the herniated organ becomes reduced or cut off.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination and x-ray or CT scan.
A small hernia may need no treatment. A larger one can be repaired with surgery.
Top Symptoms: pain in the lower right abdomen, pain in the lower left abdomen, groin pain, testicle pain, groin lump
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Folliculitis is a common skin problem where hair follicles are infected by bacteria or fungi.
Top Symptoms: small facial lump, pink or red facial bump, face itch, facial bump leaking yellow/milky fluid, yellow or white facial bump
Symptoms that always occur with folliculitis: small facial lump
A furuncle, also called a boil, is infection of a hair follicle. The infection forms under the skin at the root of the hair and may occur anywhere on the body.
The infection is caused by bacteria, most often Staphylococcus aureus or "staph." Irritation caused by clothes or anything else rubbing the skin can cause the skin to break down and allow bacteria to enter.
Staph bacteria are found everywhere. Frequent and thorough handwashing, and otherwise maintaining cleanliness, will help to prevent its spread.
Most susceptible are those with a weakened immune system; diabetes; and other skin infections.
Symptoms include a single bump under the skin that is swollen, painful, and red, and contains pus.
It is important to treat the boil, since infection can spread into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination and sometimes fluid sample from the boil.
Treatment may involve incision and drainage of the infection, followed by creams to apply to the site of the boil and/or a course of antibiotic medicine.
Top Symptoms: pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painful facial bump, marble sized facial lump, constant skin changes
Symptoms that always occur with boil (furuncle): pink or red facial bump
Symptoms that never occur with boil (furuncle): fever
Groin hernia requiring a doctor's examination
A groin hernia, or inguinal hernia, is the protrusion of an organ or other tissue – usually a loop of intestine – through a tear or weakness in the lower abdominal muscles. It can be easily felt beneath the skin, especially when the person is standing upright.
A groin hernia is most often found in men doing any kind of heavy lifting, though women can also be affected.
Symptoms include aching, burning groin pain with a sense of heaviness. The pain may be severe, especially on exertion. There may be an abdominal bulge that disappears when the patient lies on his/her back.
It is important to have a suspected inguinal hernia examined by a medical provider for possible treatment. A hernia can become strangulated, which means that its blood supply is cut off. A strangulated hernia is a medical emergency.
Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and sometimes ultrasound.
Treatment usually involves surgical repair of the hernia, although a small hernia may simply be monitored for any change.
Top Symptoms: nausea, nausea or vomiting, fever, groin pain, groin lump
Urgency: Emergency medical service
Groin lump treatments and relief
When to see a doctor for a groin lump
Since the causes of groin lumps are varied, it is important to make an appointment with your physician in order to get the proper diagnosis and treatment. Depending on the cause of your symptoms, your physician may suggest:
- Surgery: If an inguinal hernia is causing your groin lump, your physician may suggest open or non-invasive surgery to relieve discomfort and prevent complications. However, if your hernia is not causing you significant pain or discomfort, your physician may suggest watchful waiting.
- Antibiotics: If you have swollen lymph nodes due to infection, your physician will provide appropriate antibiotic treatment.
- Anti-inflammatory: Hidradenitis suppurativa can be treated with various types of medications that target and decrease inflammation, including immune system suppressing drugs.
- Cancer treatment: If your groin lump and associated symptoms are due to cancer, your physician will discuss treatment options including surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.
When a groin lump is an emergency
A groin lump can quickly lead to a life-threatening condition if it is associated with symptoms such as:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Pain that is sudden and increases in intensity
- The lump changes color
- Inability to pass gas
These could be signs of an incarcerated hernia. A hernia is incarcerated when it becomes trapped in the abdominal wall. Incarcerated hernias are dangerous because they can wrap around themselves and cut off blood flow to the trapped tissue. When this occurs, a strangulated hernia results, which can have life-threatening consequences if not treated promptly.
Questions your doctor may ask about groin lump
- What color is the bump?
- Do you feel pain when you touch the bump?
- Any fever today or during the last week?
- Is the bump hard or soft?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
Dr. Gambrah-Lyles is a resident pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine (2019). She graduated cum laude and received her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Spanish from Washington University in St. Louis (2013). Her research explores the intersections between neurology, public health, and infectious disease. She has investigated nutrition and cerebral palsy in Botswana, and completed a year-long project in Brazil, researching growth and developmental outcomes of Zika virus infection in pediatric patients as a Doris Duke International Scholar. Dr. Gambrah-Lyles speaks four languages, loves staying active, and enjoys sharing her love for medicine through teaching and writing.
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