Lumps, and bumps, and growths, oh my! At some point in their lives, everyone will experience a curious growth on their skin. While most skin bumps and lumps are generally harmless, it is worth knowing how to detect an abnormal growth and the different treatment methods for each.
While this is not a comprehensive list of the types of bumps or growths that may develop on your skin, it is a sampling of the more common skin conditions you may run across in your lifetime:
- Moles: Moles are a common skin growth that typically present as flat or raised spots that are brown or black in color. While most are benign, moles that begin to change in size, color, or shape need to be examined by a dermatologist to rule out skin cancer. If you have a number of moles, self-check your skin regularly to note new or changing growths.
- Warts: Like moles, warts – small, fleshy bumps – are a common skin growth. They are caused by a form of the HPV virus that promotes extra skin cell growth and can develop anywhere, but most often pop up on the hands, feet, and nails. They are highly contagious and can be spread to new areas of your body and to others through skin to skin contact, and via contact with razors or towels that touch a wart. While warts do not generally necessitate medical treatment, they may take up to several months or years to disappear on their own or through home treatment remedies. Seek medical attention if you develop warts on your genitals or if one begins to hurt, bleed, or burn.
- Boils: Boils are red, often painful lumps that form when a bacterial skin infection develops around a hair follicle or oil gland. Bacteria thrives in warm, moist places, and boils most commonly appear in areas where sweat gathers, such as the thighs, armpits, neck, and face. Boils can be treated at home with warm washcloth applications daily until the pus releases from the growth.
- Cysts: Cysts are benign pockets of tissue that are filled with fluids, oils, or pus. They can appear on the body or under the skin as a result of clogged oil glands, trapped hair follicles, or infections. The most common type of cyst is an epidermal cyst, which is filled with the protein keratin and develops when skin tissues grow deeper into the skin instead of shedding. Sebaceous cysts are also normal and benign; these cysts are small, round bumps that occur around blocked oil glands. While the majority of cysts are smooth, harmless, and painless, they may need draining or surgical intervention for removal, especially if the growth is particularly large, painful, or infected.
- Skin tags: Skin tags are small, abnormal growths of skin that hang from the body by a connecting stalk. They appear in in areas with skin creases, where sections of skin rub together, and where clothes rub over skin. While harmless and noncancerous, they can be removed for aesthetic or cosmetic reasons.
- Dermatofibromas: Dermatofibromas are somewhat mysterious growths – they typically appear as firm round, red-brown bumps on the arms and/or legs following minor injuries (cuts, scrapes), bumps, or bug bites. Science has yet to determine the exact cause of such growths. They are generally painless, but may sometimes become itchy or irritated. Dermatofibromas are harmless, but they do not go away on their own, and may be removed surgically if desired.
- Seborrheic keratosis: These growths are characterized as thick, waxy bumps that closely resemble warts. They can occur anywhere on the body, but they are not contagious like warts are. White seborrheic keratosis growths may itch, they are harmless and no treatment is required.
- Lipomas: Lipomas are fatty lumps that grow under the skin, most commonly around the neck, shoulders, back, arms, and thighs. Although lipomas are classified as tumors, they are harmless growths and require no treatment. The cause of lipomas is still unknown. If a lipoma growth is large, painful, or unsightly, it can be removed by your doctor.
- Hives: Hives develop as a reaction to an irritant – allergies, infections, stress, illness, exercise, sun, or even chemicals. They are itchy, swollen bumps that can remain on the skin for days or weeks. While you are waiting for hives to heal, take cool showers to soothe the skin. Your doctor may also prescribe antihistamines or steroids to reduce irritation.
No matter the type of growth on your skin, it is always well worth being seen by your dermatologist to have it examined. This is especially true if you develop a growth this is painful, bleeding, or changes shape and size quickly – click here to learn more about the signs and symptoms of skin cancer. If you have questions or concerns about an unusual lump or bump, contact Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers today to schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations.