Most swollen glands or lumps under the skin
are not cause for concern. The glands (lymph nodes) on
either side of the neck, under the jaw, or behind the ears commonly swell when
you have a cold or sore throat.
More serious infections may cause
the glands to enlarge and become very firm and tender. Glands can also swell
and become tender after an injury, such as a cut or bite, or when a tumor or
infection occurs in the mouth, head, or neck.
Swollen glands and other
lumps under the skin can be caused by many different things, including illness,
infection, or another cause.
Swollen glands commonly develop when the
body fights infections from colds, insect bites, or small cuts. More serious
infections may cause the glands to enlarge and become firm, hard, or tender.
Examples of such infections include:
aneurysms are bulging sections in a muscle or blood
vessel. A nodule is usually a growth on a gland. A hernia, aneurysm, or nodule may be felt under the skin but may not be visible. These types of lumps may need more medical evaluation.
inguinal hernia is a soft lump in the
groin or near the navel. It may be more visible when you cough. Hernias that disappear when you press on them may not need any treatment. Hernias that don't disappear when you press on them may be more serious and need medical treatment.
A bulging section in the wall
of a blood vessel (aneurysm) may feel like a pulsating lump in the abdomen, in
the groin, or behind the knee. It can cause serious problems if it involves the
blood vessels in the brain or the abdomen. Aneurysms may be a medical emergency
and may require immediate evaluation.
A lump caused by cancer is
usually hard, irregularly shaped, and firmly fixed under the skin or deep in
tissue. Although they usually do not cause pain, some types of cancerous lumps
are painful. Most lumps are not caused by cancer.
Swelling may also be caused by:
A side effect of a medicine, such as phenytoin
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The following home treatment
measures may help you treat a painful lump or swollen gland.
Avoid irritation and prevent infection.
Do not squeeze, scratch, or pick at the lump.
Do not stick a needle in it.
Leave the lump exposed to the air
Adjust your clothing to avoid rubbing the
Apply warm, wet cloths to the painful lump for 20 to 30
minutes, 3 or 4 times a day. If you prefer, you can also use a hot water bottle
over a damp towel. The heat and moisture can soothe the lump, increase blood
circulation to the area, and speed healing. It can also bring a lump caused by
infection to a head (but it may take 5 to 7 days). Be careful not to burn your
skin. Do not use water that is warmer than bathwater.
Wash your hands frequently during cold
and cough season. This may help prevent some upper respiratory infections that
cause glands to swell.
Measures to decrease your risk of infection
Keep your skin clean.
Wash with lukewarm water and a mild soap or
cleanser. Do not use soaps and skin cleansers that contain irritating
Rinse your skin thoroughly after you wash it, and gently
pat it dry.
Wash soon after participating in activities that cause
you to sweat.
Do not use skin care products that contain oil,
because they may clog your pores. Instead, use water-based skin care products.
Read the labels on products, and look for the terms oil-free or
Do not squeeze, scratch, drain, or puncture a
painful lump. Doing this can irritate or inflame the lump, push any existing
infection deeper into the skin, or cause severe bleeding.
irritation by wearing soft, cotton clothing or moleskin under sports equipment
(if possible). Parts of equipment (such as chin straps) can rub your skin and
irritate it. Adjust your clothing so that belts and straps or elastic from bras
or underwear do not rub against your skin.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.