Hard Groin Lump Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions
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Have you noticed a lump in your groin area? A lump in the groin or inner thigh on males and females can be caused by a variety of conditions that range in severity, from common conditions such as groin abscesses and skin cysts, to rarer conditions like lipoma or a groin hernia. Read more below about what may be causing the lump in your groin and how your doctor may treat it.
Hallmarks of a hard groin lump
A groin lump can be uncomfortable, surprising, or embarrassing. However, most lumps or bumps in the groin are not life-threatening. They may be caused by infection, blockage of blood vessels entering or leaving the groin, or calcification of tissues certain tissues.
Common characteristics of hard groin lumps
Symptoms associated with a hard groin lump may include the following.
- A lump that is fixed: This means it does not move when pressed on and seems to be attached to a nearby structure.
- A lump that is movable or reducible: This means that the lump can be pressed on or moved around and it may not be present at all times.
Common accompanying symptoms of a hard groin lump
It's also likely to experience the following symptoms.
- Pain in the area of the lump
- General swelling, warmth or redness in the area of the lump
- Swelling, warmth, or redness of the testicles in men
- Dysuria: This is painful urination.
- Increased urination
- Difficulty with having a bowel movement
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fever, chills, or night sweats
- Back pain
- Unexplained weight loss
9 causes of a hard lump in the groin
Causes of hard groin lumps can be related to scrotal conditions in men, gynecological conditions in women, and hernias.
Masses in the scrotum (e.g. the pouch of skin that holds the testicles) can be caused by many processes. Infection, blockage of blood flow out to the testicles, or a tumor can cause swelling and hardening of the scrotum.
- Epididymitis: This is one cause of painful testicular swelling. The epididymis is a soft and spongy coiled tube that can be felt along the top portion of the testicle on the side closest to the body. When it is infected with bacteria, it can swell and track infection into the bulb of the testicle. This can cause a warm, swollen, and very painful testicle as well as painful urination, painful defecation, and an increased frequency of urination. It should be treated with powerful antibiotics in the hospital.
- Testicular torsion: Testicular torsion is a surgical emergency that requires surgery immediately. It is caused when the “tunica vaginalis” part of the scrotum that holds the testicle in place is not properly affixed to the scrotum. This allows the testicle to twist or rotate and can occlude the outflow of blood from the testicles. As blood builds up, the pressure can keep blood from flowing in and starve the testicle of oxygen leading to its death. Testicular torsion is extremely painful for most individuals and should be treated surgically within 12 hours to avoid loss of a testicle.
- Testicular tumors: These are masses that may be benign (e.g. non-cancerous) or malignant (e.g. cancerous). They are frequently painless and are often discovered incidentally during a physical exam, by a sexual partner, or during an assessment for another physical condition. When a painless mass is discovered, it is important to seek medical evaluation as testicular tumors can be difficult to treat once they have spread beyond the testicle. They are unfortunately often found after spread has begun.
Hernias are caused when a portion of the body pushes through a lining that should contain it.
- Indirect inguinal hernias: These are the most common type of hernias in both genders. During embryonic development, the ovaries and testicles migrate through a small hole in the lining of the abdomen. The area can become weakened or can close improperly. This incomplete closure can weaken the wall and make it easier for abdominal contents like the intestine to push through, making a bulging mass in the lower portion of the belly.
- Direct inguinal hernias: Direct inguinal hernias are less common than inguinal hernias and occur in a different area of the body. Unlike inguinal hernias, which can be caused by the remnant of an embryological tube not closing properly, a direct inguinal hernia is frequently caused by weakened overlying connective tissue. Often they are treated by pressing the hernia back into place but can be fixed surgically depending on the size.
- Femoral hernias: These are less common than either direct or indirect inguinal hernias, but they can frequently be starved of a blood supply. This can lead to a surgical emergency in which the suffocating bowel has to be cut out and the ends of the bowel reconnected. Femoral hernias are lower on the abdomen near where the hip meets the femur. They are caused when abdominal contents protrude through the femoral ring. Often if a hernia of any type becomes painful there is a risk of bowel suffocation or infection, both of which are emergencies requiring hospitalization.
There are many causes of abdominal masses that are unique to women. In addition to infections, hernias, aneurysms, and tumors of the bowel, the ovaries, uterus, and external vagina can all cause large or hard masses in the lower abdomen and groin area.
- Ovarian tumors: These usually involve the lower abdomen near the groin area, and depending on the type of tumor, they can be fluid-filled or hard. Often times these masses are not painful until they are large enough to begin affecting nearby organisms, either through the spread of cancerous cells or through the effect of crowding in the abdomen by large masses. Masses can be differentiated by when they occur. Masses that grow or worsen consistently and independently of menstrual periods are generally more ominous than those that wax and wane with the menstrual period.
- Dermoid cyst: Otherwise known as a mature teratoma, this is a tumor that stems from a cell that can differentiate into any tissue type. Often these tissues have teeth and hair and can be large and hard on appearance. It is difficult to appreciate them through the abdomen and an imaging study will be necessary to differentiate these tumors from more malignant growths. These are often removed as they can rupture and cause pain and a dangerous drop in blood pressure even though they are not cancerous.
- Bartholin cyst/Abscess: The Bartholin glands are glands that exist at the base of the vulva on either side of the vagina. They can form cysts (e.g. collections of fluid) or abscesses (e.g. collections of pus) if they are blocked and fluid is not allowed to drain. A cyst or abscess may be pea-sized and may require lancing or draining with a needle, especially if it is infected. Antibiotics may also be prescribed depending on whether there is suspicion of the abscess leaking infected fluid into the bloodstream.
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
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
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 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 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
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 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
Pimples are also called comedones, spots, blemishes, or "zits." Medically, they are small skin eruptions filled with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria.
Pimples often first start appearing at puberty, when hormones increase the production of oil in the skin and sometimes clog the pores.
Most susceptible are teenagers from about ages 13 to 17.
Symptoms include blocked pores that may appear flat and black on the surface, because the oil darkens when exposed to the air; blocked pores that appear white on the surface because they have closed over with dead skin cells; or swollen, yellow-white, pus-filled blisters surrounded by reddened skin.
Outbreaks of pimples on the skin can interfere with quality of life, making the person self-conscious about their appearance and causing pain and discomfort in the skin. A medical provider can help to manage the condition, sometimes through referral to a dermatologist.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination.
Treatment involves improving diet; keeping the skin, hair, washcloths, and towels very clean; and using over-the-counter acne remedies.
Top Symptoms: pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painful facial bump, marble sized facial lump
Symptoms that always occur with pimple: pink or red facial bump
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
How to treat a hard groin lump
When to see a doctor
Your treatment plan will depend on the cause of your hard groin lump, which can be determined by your physician. Some of the likely treatment options are described below, and together you can decide what is best.
- Surgery: Surgery can be used to remove tissue that is causing a problem within the body (e.g. tumors, malignancy, suffocated tissue) or to restore blood flow in instances of blood flow lost due to twisting of either testicles or ovaries. Surgery for torsion of especially large masses may be emergent and may occur immediately. However, surgery for some slower growing cancers or other types of benign masses may be scheduled and allow more time for planning.
- Drainage/Antibiotics: In the setting of infections that cause abscesses, the abscess often needs to be drained and the individual will likely need to be placed on antibiotics for a period of time to completely eliminate the infection from the body. If you are prescribed antibiotics, it is important to finish them even if you begin to feel better. Other types of cysts (e.g. theca lutein cysts, Bartholin cysts) may require drainage without antibiotics.
- Watchful waiting: Most masses will never become life-threatening. After life-threatening causes of groin lumps have been ruled out by your physician, it may be appropriate to watch and monitor the lump to ensure that it is not growing or does not change in character.
When it is an emergency
You should seek care immediately if you experience the following.
- Severe sudden abdominal or groin pain
- Unexpected or unplanned weight loss
- An inability to urinate or defecate
- Severe swelling of your genitals
Hard groin lump FAQs
What causes a hard groin lump?
Depending on the location of a groin lump, a groin lump can be caused by an infection, a malignancy, or a hernia — an outpouching of fat or internal organs through a natural opening or weakness in the abdominal wall muscles.
How long do hard groin lumps usually last?
Groin lumps may last different durations depending on the cause. Many sexually transmitted infections require treatment and may also cause lymph node swelling, which is commonly known as a groin lump. Skin infections that are not sexually transmitted can also cause swelling; however, swelling from skin infections are often painful. Groin lumps caused by malignancy may cause other symptoms like sweating, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
When should you worry about a groin lump?
A groin lump is worrisome if it is accompanied by fatigue, increased swelling, back pain, or night sweats. A groin lump accompanied by fever, shortness of breath, or loss of sensation in the groin can be a sign of a serious infection tracking into the blood or causing the death of tissue. Severe abdominal pain is also a red flag and should be medically evaluated.
What are non-concerning causes of groin lumps?
A non-concerning cause of a groin lump is an infection that will normally clear on its own. Often mild skin infections can clear on their own and may involve swelling of the lymph nodes. Viral infections can at times cause swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin and most viral infections are transient and can be eliminated, but some viral infections may be life-threatening, so prolonged symptoms or worrisome symptoms should be medically evaluated.
Can a sexually transmitted disease cause a groin lump?
Yes, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause a lump in the groin, especially if they are painful. If you also have discharge from the urethra (penis or opening just above the vagina), you should seek medical treatment and antibiotics.
Questions your doctor may ask about hard groin lump
- What color is the bump?
- Do you feel pain when you touch the bump?
- Any fever today or during the last week?
- Can you press the bump back into your body?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
Ezekiel Richardson is a fourth-year medical student at UPenn, currently applying into Emergency Medicine. He completed an undergraduate degree with a concentration in health disparities at Stanford University. After graduation, he spent a year working in the Maryland Department of Health as a John Gardner Public Service Fellow. Between his third and fourth year of medical school, he completed multiple publications on public health and health accessibility through the Center for Emergency Care and Policy Research Fellowship. He has participated as a teaching assistant in anatomy, histology, and doctoring ethics courses at UPenn. Outside of medical school, he enjoys cooking, volunteering, and traveling in support of his partner’s work on girls’ education in Africa.
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