An underarm lump is a bump which occurs under the skin of the axilla. A lump may have many characteristics, be painful or not accompanied by pain. An underarm lump can be small and withdraw spontaneously without any treatment. On the other hand, it can get inflamed and start to grow which requires visit to the doctor and proper treatment depending on the underlying cause.
Underarm lumps may represent a response to some inflammatory process or be connected to even more serious medical conditions. Lumps that are located more superficially are formed inside the skin while those which are palpated inside the axilla are actually enlarged axillary lymph nodes.
Causes of Underarm Lump
There are many causes which may lead to the occurrence of the lumps inside the skin of the axilla or be a trigger to enlargement of the axillary lymph nodes. Infection is only one of the causes which may lead to both. Different infective agents including bacteria, virus and fungi may affect the skin of the underarm and feature with formation of lumps. If the infection spreads to the regional lymph nodes the patient may also suffer from enlarged axillary lymph nodes. Infection of the skin is basically in a form of boils and cysts which represent a consequence of lack of personal hygiene. Viral infections such as chickenpox and shingles may affect this skin area and lead to formation of painful or itchy lumps. Underarm lumps may additionally develop as a consequence of shaving of this area or as a reaction to certain antiperspirants.
Enlargement of the underarm lymph nodes may occur as a reaction to infection, after vaccination against typhoid, small pox, measles, mumps etc. In case of spread of breast cancer the tumor cells may affect underarm lymph nodes and this is another cause of underarm lumps. Even some other malignancies such as lymphomas feature with enlargement of axillary lymph nodes. And finally, fatty growth and benign cysts may affect this skin area.
Treatment for Underarm Lump
In case of bacterial infection, patients are prescribed antibiotics and underarm lumps are usually drained. People who develop underarm lumps due to improper hygiene or shaving are taught how to maintain this skin area clean and prevent potential irritation. Benign fatty growths and cysts are surgically removed.
If there is swelling of the underarm lymph nodes, the doctor performs thorough examination in order to establish the underlying cause of lymphadenomegaly. In some cases patients must undergo biopsy of the enlarged underarm lymph node. This helps in setting of the definitive diagnosis. If the enlarged lymph node is affected by malignant tumor further treatment depends on the type of the tumor and stage of the disease.