Read below about painful armpit lump, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your painful armpit lump from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Painful Armpit Lump Symptoms

The armpit is vulnerable to several painful conditions. A painful lump in the armpit typically involves either lymph nodes or skin. Lymph nodes are present throughout the body and drain fluid and waste products that build up due to normal physiological functions. They also contribute to the immune response to infections. Certain conditions can cause lymph nodes to become enlarged and painful, and the lymph nodes in one or both armpits can be affected. In addition, armpit skin is vulnerable to conditions causing painful lumps due to the effects of sweat, friction, bacteria, and hygiene practices.

Symptoms that can be associated with a painful armpit lump include:

  • Rash
  • Itching or burning sensation
  • Smelly drainage
  • Red streaks
  • Systemic signs of illness such as fever
  • Similar lesions in other areas such as the groin
  • Bumps appearing similar to acne
  • Scarring
  • Painful swollen lymph nodes in multiple parts of the body

Painful Armpit Lump Causes Overview

Skin conditions

  • Hidradenitis suppurativa: This condition causes chronic inflammation and sometimes infection, resulting in lumps that can drain smelly fluid and lead to scarring over time. The armpits are the area most commonly affected.
  • Ingrown hair: Shaving the armpit can cause ingrown hairs, where the newly cut hairs re-enter the skin instead of growing out. This results in tiny painful bumps in the armpits.

Infection

  • Local infection: Since lymph nodes drain waste fluids and respond to infections, they can become enlarged due to a nearby infection. A skin infection in the arm can cause painful swelling of lymph nodes in the armpit. A painful armpit lump could also be caused by an infection in the armpit itself, such as infection of a hair follicle (the structure that surrounds a hair within the skin).

  • Systemic infection: An infection throughout the body may cause swollen and painful lymph nodes in many locations, including the armpits. Other symptoms will likely be present, such as fever and fatigue.

Other causes:

Infectious and dermatologic conditions are the most likely reasons for a painful armpit lump, but there are other less common causes.

  • Pain syndromes: Chronic conditions characterized by widespread pain and fatigue can cause painful swollen lymph nodes throughout the body, including in the armpits. Examples include fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Cancer: Very rarely, a painful lymph node in the armpit could by caused by lymphoma. In this case, there will be an enlarged lymph node that is painless most of the time but may become very painful after consumption of alcohol.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Painful Armpit Lump

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced painful armpit lump. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Skin Cyst

    An epidermoid cyst is a closed sac under the skin filled with a cheese-like or oily material. It is caused by trauma or surgery.

    Resolves with treatment

    Rarity:
    Common
    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
  2. 2.Skin Abscess

    A skin abscess is an infection of the deeper skin that's typically due to bacteria seen on the skin. Recently, infections are more frequently caused by Staph. Aureus (puts the "staph" in "staph infections"), which is dangerous and requires treatment.

    Good prognosis with treatment

    Rarity:
    Common
    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
  3. 3.Boil (Furuncle)

    Boils are infections of a hair follicle that creates a small pocket of inflammation full of pus. It's typically caused by a common bacteria called S. Aureus.

    5-10 days

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    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
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Lipoma

    A lipoma is a noncancerous growth of fatty tissue cells. A lipoma can develop in almost any organ of the body although they are most commonly found in the subcutaneous layer just below the skin.

    Resolves with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    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
  5. 5.Enlarged Lymph Nodes in the Armpit

    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.

    Enlarged lymph nodes should go away within a week or two.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    armpit lump, movable armpit lump
    Symptoms that always occur with enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit:
    armpit lump
    Symptoms that never occur with enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit:
    fever, unintentional weight loss, hard lump in the armpit
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

    Painful Armpit Lump Checker

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  6. 6.Pimple

    Acne, also known as pimples, occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil & dead skin cells. Acne is extremely common and ranges from mild to severe.

    The severity of the acne dictates treatment-type and duration. With proper treatment, acne should resolve in weeks to months. In some cases, acne is a long-term condition.

    Rarity:
    Common
    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
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  7. 7.Severe Skin Abscess in the Armpit

    A skin abscess is an infection of the deeper skin that's typically due to bacteria seen on the skin. Recently, infections are more frequently caused by Staph. Aureus (puts the "staph" in "staph infections"). If the infection begins to spread, urgent treatment is required.

    92-96% resolve with treatment within 7-10 days

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, fever, painful armpit lump, pink or red armpit bump, marble sized armpit lump
    Symptoms that always occur with severe skin abscess in the armpit:
    pink or red armpit bump, red bump
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  8. 8.Folliculitis

    Folliculitis is a common skin problem where hair follicles are infected by bacteria or fungi.

    Mild cases clear in a few days. More severe ones can cause hair loss and scarring.

    Rarity:
    Common
    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
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  9. 9.Mononucleosis Infection

    EBV Mononucleosis is a clinical syndrome characterized by fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.

    2-3 weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, abdominal pain (stomach ache), cough
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Lymphangitis

    The lymphatic system is a series of vessels, similar to the veins and arteries of the circulatory system, that carry fluid important for the function of the immune system. Lymphangitis is infection or inflammation of these lymphatic vessels.

    With treatment, the swelling may take weeks or months to resolve completely.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, fever, chills, painful lump in one side of the groin, groin redness
    Symptoms that always occur with lymphangitis:
    painful lump in one side of the groin
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

Painful Armpit Lump Treatments and Relief

Most causes of a painful armpit lump are not immediately dangerous. However, an infection may require urgent treatment to prevent it from spreading to the rest of the body.

Seek emergency painful armpit lump treatment if:

  • Your painful armpit lump is accompanied by systemic symptoms such as fever and chills.
  • There are signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, and drainage, in the area of the armpit lump or at the site of an injury on the same arm.

In some cases, even though emergency care isn't necessary, you may need evaluation and treatment.

Make an appointment with your medical provider if:

  • Your painful armpit lump fails to resolve or becomes larger and more painful over time.
  • You have foul smelling drainage from the armpit.
  • You have other symptoms like fatigue, weight loss, night sweats, and/or swollen lymph nodes throughout the body.
  • You have an armpit lump that is only painful after you consume alcohol.
  • You have recurrent ingrown hairs, particularly if you notice darkening and scarring of the skin.

Your medical provider may prescribe one or more of the following treatments, depending on the cause of your painful armpit lump symptoms:

  • Oral or topical antibiotics to treat an infection.
  • Oral anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Referral to a dermatologist or surgeon if first line treatments are not effective.

Some home treatments may help with a painful armpit lump.

  • Minimize exposing the armpit to sweat by showering immediately after working out and avoiding tight clothing.
  • Avoid shaving the armpit. If you do continue shaving, clean and dry the skin before and after shaving and try shaving in different directions to see which way reduces ingrown hairs.
  • Try warm compresses and/or warm baths for relief of painful skin conditions.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Painful Armpit Lump

  • Q.What color is the bump?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Is there fluid coming out of the bump?
  • Q.Do you have a rash?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our painful armpit lump symptom checker to find out more.

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Painful Armpit Lump Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced painful armpit lump have also experienced:

    • 6% Armpit Lump
    • 5% Fatigue
    • 5% Hard Lump in the Armpit
  • People who have experienced painful armpit lump had symptoms persist for:

    • 43% Less Than a Week
    • 21% Over a Month
    • 13% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced painful armpit lump were most often matched with:

    • 80% Skin Abscess
    • 20% Boil (Furuncle)
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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