A painful lump in the groin in females and males, specifically located on one side, is most likely caused by an enlarged lymph node, a skin infection like an skin abscess or cyst, an infected ingrown hair on the groin, or a symptom of a sexually transmitted infection. Read below for associated symptoms, other causes, and treatment options for your painful lump on one side of the groin.
Hallmarks of a painful lump in the groin
A groin lump is a swelling in the area where the upper leg meets the pelvis. Depending on the cause, a painful lump in the groin may go away on its own or may need to be treated by a medical professional.
Common characteristics of a painful lump in the groin
Groin lumps can have any of the following characteristics:
- Large or small
- Soft or firm
- Mobile: This means it moves when you touch or press it.
- Fixed: This means it feels stuck in its location.
- Consistent in size or growing and shrinking with activity or rest
Common accompanying symptoms of a painful groin lump
Groin lumps can also be associated with:
- Pain or tenderness
- Skin that feels hot to the touch in the area of the lump
- Flu-like symptoms
- Abdominal pain
- Abnormal discharge or fluid from the vagina or penis
Duration of symptoms
A painful lump in one side of the groin may be short- or long-term depending on the cause.
- A groin lump may last for only a few days before going away on its own or you may notice that it persists for a week or more.
- You may also notice that the groin lump comes and goes, appearing when you cough or strain and disappearing when you rest or lay down.
Are painful groin lumps serious?
The severity of groin lumps depends on the cause and the duration of the symptom(s).
- If it is self-resolving: If your groin lump goes away on its own, this is typically a sign that it is not serious.
- If you also have a fever: If you have a large groin lump that is associated with redness, pain, numbness, and especially fever, you should be seen by a medical provider.
- If it is growing or fixed: Groin lumps that grow over time or feel firm and fixed in place should be evaluated by a medical professional.
- If pain increases with exertion: Even if your groin lump seemed to go away with rest and only be exacerbated by activity or straining, you should see a medical provider immediately, especially if the pain starts to increase or is persistent.
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9 causes of a painful lump in the groin
There are many potential causes for a painful groin lump. Some of these causes are related to infection and injury but sometimes a groin lump can be caused by changes in your body's anatomy or abnormal cell growth.
Various infection-related causes that can lead to a painful lump in the groin include:
- Skin infection: Infections of the skin by bacteria or fungi can cause a painful groin lump. Sometimes the infection starts when a hair follicle gets infected (called folliculitis if it becomes more severe) and is often from shaving. If an open cut is exposed it can also become infected, leading to something called cellulitis, an infection of the skin and area under the skin. A skin infection that isn't cleared up can lead to something called an abscess, which is a pocket pus that forms as your body tries to fight the infection.
- Lymph node enlargement: Lymph nodes are small glands where the cells that fight infections live. While reacting to infections caused by bacteria, fungi or viruses in and around the area of your groin, they can grow in size and appear as single or multiple lumps in the groin.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STI): Some STIs, like HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), genital herpes, and syphilis can cause your lymph nodes to enlarge, leading to painful groin lumps. Another STI, HPV (human papillomavirus), can cause groin lumps in the form of small, flesh - colored lumps in your groin area that may be itchy. Groin lumps from STIs can be accompanied by discharge from the vagina or penis and/or flu-like symptoms.
Hernias that appear as groin lumps occur when some of your abdominal tissue and/or intestines bulge out through a weak spot in your abdominal muscles. You may notice the bulge appear or become more painful and/or noticeable when you strain by coughing, sneezing, bending over, lifting a heavy object or having a bowel movement. Sometimes the bulge can be pushed back into place easily. Other times it gets strangulated or "stuck," and this can be life-threatening as blood flow can be cut off to the section of your tissues or intestine that is bulging through.
Trauma or injury
Groin lumps can also be a symptom of injury or strain when too much stress has been put on the muscles of your groin. This can lead to muscle pain, swelling and cramping in reaction to the injury.
Abnormal cell growth
Sometimes a groin lump can be caused by abnormal growth of a variety of different cells that make up your body. These can include the cells that make up your blood system which can lead to leukemia or lymphoma that sometimes appear as swelling in the groin. For people with testicles, abnormal growth of the cells that make up the testiclescan also lead to swelling in and around the groin. Fat cells can also grow abnormally into harmless lumps called lipomas.
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
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 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 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
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
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
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
Hernias occur when an organ protrudes through part of the abdominal/pelvic wall that normally contains it. Indirect hernias are located near the groin and occur when abdominal contents, such as the intestines, pass through an opening into a channel called the inguinal canal.
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
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
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Treatments for painful groin lumps
Treatment for painful lumps in the groin can begin at home. However, if you are unable to find relief, you should consult your physician for further recommendations and medical treatment.
Various at-home treatments that you can try to alleviate symptoms of your painful groin lump include:
- Warm and cold compresses: These can help reduce pain and swelling if your groin lump is due to infection or trauma.
- Over-the-counter medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil, Motrin, Naproxen and aspirin can help reduce pain, swelling, and redness because they work by reducing inflammation in your body. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also help with pain and fever but does not treat the inflammation.
- Fluid intake: If your groin lump is due to an infectious cause, increasing your fluid intake is critical in order to stay hydrated and keep your body strong enough to fight the infection, especially if you also have a fever.
After consulting your physician, he or she may also recommend the following if conservative measures have been ineffective or your pain is persisting.
- Incision and drainage: If your groin lump is caused by an infection that has caused a collection of pus under your skin, a medical professional may need to cut a small hole (incision) in the skin overlying the bump in order to drain the pus collection.
- Antibiotics: You may also be prescribed an antibiotic in the form of a pill or cream/ointment in order to fight the infection if the groin lump is due to a bacterial or fungal cause.
- Surgery: If the groin lump is caused by an abnormal growth of cells, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove the lump, assess what kind of cells are causing the growth, and determine whether the growth is cancerous or not. If your groin lump is the result of a hernia a bulging of your abdominal tissue or intestines through a weakness in your abdominal muscles you may need surgery, especially if a hernia becomes strangulated or"stuck" and can no longer be pushed back inside. During the procedure, a surgeon pushes the tissue and intestines back into your abdomen and seals the hole or weakness where a hernia was bulging through.
Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 for the following
If you experience these symptoms, you should seek treatment as soon as possible:
- Severe, sudden, or worsening pain and/or swelling
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Redness that is worsening or spreading around the lump
- Sudden loss of sensation
- Inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement
FAQs about painful groin lumps
Can groin lumps be caused by STIs?
Yes, certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause groin lumps in the form of lymph node swelling. Your lymph nodes are small glands all over your body where the cells that fight infection live. In response to infection, the cells become more active which sometimes leads to swelling of the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes in your groin are on alert for infections that occur in and around your groin area and can become swollen after infection with STIs like HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), syphilis, or herpes, for example. Groin lumps associated with STIs can also be associated with abnormal genital discharge (fluid from the vagina or penis), flu-like symptoms, and pain or burning during sex or urination. HPV (human papillomavirus) can also cause genital warts, which are small, flesh-colored lumps in and around the genital and groin area.
Why does my groin lump appear after I work out?
Some groin lumps are caused by hernias, which occur when tissue from the abdomen and/or intestine bulges out through a weakness in the abdominal wall and into the groin area. Hernias become more noticeable when the pressure inside your abdomen/belly builds up, and this normally happens when you strain often during a workout when you're lifting heavy objects. Other times when the pressure in your abdomen builds up and may make a hernia more noticeable include when you are coughing, sneezing, laughing or having a bowel movement.
Why is my groin lump painful?
Groin lumps may be painful for different reasons depending on the cause. Groin lumps caused by an infection may be painful because of your immune system responding to the infection.One of the associated symptoms is pain in order to alert you that something is wrong. If your groin lump is due to injury or muscle strain, damage to the muscles from trauma often leads to pain but should go away with rest and at-home treatments like over-the-counter painkillers.
What should I do if my groin lump is extremely painful?
Groin lumps caused by hernias can become severely painful if the tissue or intestine that has bulged through the weak spot in your abdomen becomes trapped outside and starts to lose its blood flow. If you notice severe, sudden, or worsening pain with your hernia, seek immediate medical attention, especially if you also have nausea, vomiting, or become unable to pass gas or have a bowel movement.
Do ingrown hairs cause groin lumps?
Ingrown hairs can cause groin lumps, especially if they become infected. The areas where each of your hair strands grow out of your skin are called follicles. When a follicle gets infected, usually due to a bacterial or fungal cause, it can lead to an area of red, painful, swollen skin and a collection of pus in the region, called folliculitis. When an infection in the hair follicles spreads deeper, this can lead to boils or clusters of boils (called carbuncles). A medical professional may recommend antibacterial ointments for infected follicles and warm compresses and/or oral antibiotics for carbuncles and boils.
Questions your doctor may ask about painful lump in one side of the groin
- What color is the bump?
- Any fever today or during the last week?
- Did anyone in your family have a hernia?
- Do you have a history of constipation?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
- Skin and Soft Tissue Infections. American Family Physician. 2015;92(6):online. AAFP Link
- Folliculitis and Carbuncles. Massachusetts General Hospital. Mass General Link
- Cellulitis. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated August 30, 2016. MedlinePlus Link
- Abscess. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated June 6, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
- Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Symptoms. Mayo Clinic. Published March 13, 2018. Mayo Clinic Link
- Inguinal Hernia. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. NIDDK Link
- Wechter DG. Inguinal Hernia Repair. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated February 11, 2017. MedlinePlus Link