Read below about painful scalp bump, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your painful scalp bump 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 Scalp Bump Symptoms

Scalp pain can likely be disconcerting; add the presence of a palpable bump and worry can increase. However, there are many benign causes for a painful scalp bump, and the resolution of your symptoms can likely follow once it is identified. It is still important to keep in mind the following characteristics as well as if your symptoms worsen or persist.

Characteristics

Often a painful scalp bump is associated with inflammation and other symptoms such as:

Are painful scalp bumps serious?

It may be difficult to find at-home relief that does not require painkillers, and for some people, the soreness, pain and associated symptoms can be very embarrassing.

Despite the inconvenience, a painful scalp bump is usually not life-threatening. It is important to take note of when symptoms begin and any associated triggers, especially if you have experienced painful scalp bumps before. Such observations may help you and your physician find the cause and appropriate treatment.

Painful Scalp Bump Causes Overview

The overwhelming majority of scalp pain cases can be attributed to causes that lead to inflammation/infection or put direct pressure or tension on the scalp. Regardless of the condition, most causes of painful scalp bumps are benign and easily treatable once proper medical attention is obtained. Causes can be categorized as medical or environmental.

Medical

Medical causes of painful scalp bumps include:

  • Dermatologic: Skin conditions such as eczema or acne can cause inflammation of the scalp. This inflammation can cause multiple bumps that result in excessive itching/scratching, tenderness, and pain.
  • Infectious: When the hair follicles become infected by bacteria or fungus, they can become inflamed and turn into small red bumps or pimples that can grow and swell without treatment. This specific type of infection is known as folliculitis and can be caused by many different bacteria, fungi, and sometimes viruses [1,2].
  • Allergens: Even the scalp is susceptible to allergic reactions. If the scalp comes into contact with common irritants such as jewelry or fabrics, soaps, shampoos or hair accessories that your body does not agree with, a rash of multiple, small red bumps may develop. Severe reactions may result in swelling of the bumps and larger blisters that can be painful and tender.

Environmental

Environmental causes of scalp bumps include:

  • Tension: Hairstyles such as ponytails or braids can cause strain and tension to the scalp that may result in small, painful bumps.
  • Trauma: Any situation where your scalp is hit or cut can result in a palpable bump or knot on the scalp. This cause is usually the most obvious and will often resolve on its own.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Painful Scalp Bump

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced painful scalp bump. 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

    Painful Scalp Bump Checker

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  5. 5.Melanoma

    Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of a mole. Most melanomas have a black or black-blue area. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. It may be black, abnormal, or "ugly looking."

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    brown-colored skin changes, atypical features of a facial bump, black-colored skin changes, growing facial lump, large facial lump
    Symptoms that always occur with melanoma:
    atypical features of a facial bump
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Atypical Mole

    Moles are growths on the skin. They happen when pigment cells in the skin, called melanocytes, grow in clusters. Certain moles are considered "atypical" because of their size and characteristics, which require careful watching and possibly even biopsy in order to monitor for development into cancer.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    severe abdominal lump, brown-colored skin changes, moderate abdominal lump, atypical abdominal bump features, growing abdominal bump
    Symptoms that always occur with atypical mole:
    black or brown abdominal bump, atypical abdominal bump features
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.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
  8. 8.Whitehead

    Whiteheads are caused by hair follicles becoming clogged with oil & dead skin cells. When the clogged pore is closed to the air by a layer of skin cells, the oil/dead skin cells remains white (as opposed to a blackhead).

    Whiteheads should go away within the next 3-4 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    small facial lump, yellow or white facial bump
    Symptoms that always occur with whitehead:
    small facial lump, yellow or white facial bump
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  9. 9.Basal Cell Carcinoma

    Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing form of skin cancer. Skin cancer falls into two major groups: Non-melanoma and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    facial skin changes, pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painless facial bump, growing facial lump
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Painful Scalp Bump Treatments and Relief

Often, painful scalp bumps can be constant and many people want fast relief. Fortunately, there are several at-home treatments, and if those are ineffective, further medical treatments are available.

At-home treatments

After making an appointment with your physician, try these at-home remedies to help alleviate your symptoms:

  • Resist scratching: If you are experiencing symptoms of flaking or itching along with your scalp pain, resist the urge to scratch your scalp. Often scratching may seem to provide temporary relief, but in the long run, it can exacerbate inflammation and make your scalp pain worsen.
  • Be gentle with your hair: Minimize hairstyles such as high ponytails or braids that cause tension to the scalp. Often the prolonged use of such hairstyles can lead to hair loss or receding hairline in addition to the pain.
  • Avoid allergens: These may be triggering your symptoms. Use unscented lotions and shampoos and minimize the use of cheap jewelry or accessories that may cause an allergic reaction.

Medical treatments

Painful scalp bumps will often not go away with simple lifestyle changes; they usually require treatment. Depending on the cause of your bump or bumps, your physician may suggest the following treatments:

  • Skin creams or steroids: Dermatologic conditions such as eczema or acne that causes bumps can be treated with topical skin creams and steroids. If your dermatologic condition is very serious, yourphysician may prescribe systemic treatment.
  • Antibiotics and/or antifungals: If your scalp bumps are due to a follicular infection, your physician will prescribe antibiotics that specifically target the causative bacteria or antifungal medications, shampoos or pills [2,3].

Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 for the following

If your pain is significant, it is important to seek care promptly. Complications such as spreading of the infection, increased swelling or development of boils under the skin, scarring or permanent skin damage, and permanent hair loss can all arise if your symptoms are not properly treated.

FAQs About Painful Scalp Bump

Here are some frequently asked questions about painful scalp bump.

Is it normal for my scalp bump to ooze or bleed?

Yes, it is normal for the bumps to ooze or bleed especially if they are caused by infection. Often, scalp bumps are itchy, and scratching may exacerbate oozing and bleeding by causing breaks in the skin.

Is it normal to have multiple painful scalp bumps?

Yes, it is normal to experience multiple painful bumps in the setting of infection or dermatologic skin disorders. Allergens can also cause multiple eruptions on the scalp. Traumatic causes usually result in one, singular bump rather than multiple.

Are there treatments for my painful scalp bumps I can use at home?

There are many creams, pills, and shampoos that you can buy over-the-counter that can help combat mild fungal infections of the scalp. For bacterial infections, you need a prescription in order to get the right antibiotic.

What can I do to prevent the development of painful scalp bumps?

Preventing bacterial and infectious causes of painful scalp bumps involves keeping the scalp clean and aerated. Wash your hair regularly with unscented, chemical-free shampoos and keep the skin protected as much as possible.

Are my painful scalp bumps chronic or temporary?

Your painful scalp bumps are most likely temporary. Many of the causes of this condition are easily identified and treated. Make an appointment with your physician promptly in order to get appropriate care.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Painful Scalp Bump

  • Q.What color is the bump?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Are you experiencing a headache?
  • Q.Is there something coming out of the bump?

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

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Painful Scalp Bump Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced painful scalp bump have also experienced:

    • 15% Headache
    • 12% Scalp Bump
    • 6% Scalp Pain
  • People who have experienced painful scalp bump had symptoms persist for:

    • 43% Over a Month
    • 27% Less Than a Week
    • 13% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced painful scalp bump 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”).

A.I. Health Assistant

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References

  1. Sun KL, Chang JM. Special types of folliculitis which should be differentiated from acne. Dermatoendocrinol. 2017;9(1):e1356519. Published 2017 Sep 27. doi:10.1080/19381980.2017.1356519. NCBI Link
  2. Acne-Like Breakouts Could Be Folliculitis. American Academy of Dermatology. AAD Link
  3. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. AOCD Link
  4. Bumps on Scalp: Everything You Need To Know. STD.GOV Blog. Published August 23, 2017. STD.GOV Blog Link