What Causes Skin Bumps and How to Get Rid of Them?

Skin bump is characterized by occurrence of any type of lump or swollen area on the skin that may or may not be associated by itching. The bump can be soft or hard, rough or smooth and dark or light-colored. The bump may be single or there may be several raised areas on the skin. Skin bumps may be caused by various disorders, diseases or medical conditions. Majority of the skin bumps do not require treatment. However, if skin bumps are associated with discomfort, you should visit your physician.

What Causes Bumps on Skin?

1. Common Causes

Some of the common causes of skin bumps are:

  • Acne: It is the most common condition of the skin. It results in skin bumps ranging from painless and very small to painful and large bumps. The bumps are generally associated with swelling and redness.
  • Allergic eczema: It is a type of allergic reaction of the skin that causes red, itchy skin rash. The rash may appear as raised bumps that drain, ooze and crust.
  • Angiomas: They are common growths of the skin that develop when clumping of blood vessels occurs, creating a bright red, raised lump on the skin.
  • Boils: They are hair follicles that get infected and appear as raised, red bumps on the surface of the skin.
  • Cold sores: They are fluid-filled, red bumps that are formed around the mouth. They may burst and form crust. They are caused by a virus referred as herpes simplex.
  • Calluses or corns: They are thickened, rough areas of skin present mostly on the hands and feet.
  • Cysts: They are growths filled with air, fluid or other substances. They develop beneath the skin and can form on any part of the body.
  • Hives: It is an allergic reaction to environmental factors such as dust, food or medicine. It is characterized by raised and itchy rash that may begin as a few raised spots and then join together to form one large patch of itchy and raised skin.
  • Insect bites and stings: They are swollen and itchy bumps on skin and may cause pain.
  • Keloids: They are raised, smooth growths that are formed around scars. They are commonly present on the shoulder, cheeks and chest.
  • Keratosis pilaris: It is a condition of the skin that is marked by keratin overgrowth. It results in occurrence of small bumps surrounding hair follicles.
  • Lipomas: It is characterized by collection of fatty tissue beneath the skin. Lipomas are usually painless and form on the back, shoulders or neck.
  • Moles: They are raised skin bumpswhich are generally benign. They may be dark brown in color or skin colored.
  • Molluscum contagiosum: They are flesh colored, small bumps with a concavity in the center. They can be transmitted from skin to skin contact with an infected person.
  • Psoriasis: It is a disease of the skin that is characterized by formation of itchy, red, scaly patches on the skin.
  • Seborrheic keratoses: They are rough, round spots present on the skin. They may be brown or black in color or skin-colored.
  • Skin tags: They are fleshy and small flaps of skin. They generally grow in the armpits or on the neck.
  • Warts: They are rough, raised bumps caused by infection with HPV (human papillomavirus). They usually appear on the feet and hands. They are either slightly brown or pink in color or may be skin colored.

2. Serious Causes

Bumps on skin may also be caused by more serious conditions including:

  • Chickenpox: It is a common viral infection that is characterized by itchy, red bumps on the body.
  • Genital herpes: It is a STI (sexually transmitted infection) that results in the formation of fluid-filled, painful bumps in the genital area.
  • Genital warts: It is a STI caused by infection with HPV. It results in formation of itchy or painful warts in the genital area.
  • MRSA (staph) infection: It is a medical illness caused by staph bacteria resulting in painful, swollen bump with white center.
  • Scabies: It is a skin infestation by mite Sarcoptes scabiei. It produces a pimple-like rash that is itchy.
  • Scarlet fever: It is an infection by group A streptococcus bacteria. It is characterized by a bumpy, bright red “sandpaper” rash on the whole body.
  • Syphilis: It is a STI caused by bacteria Treponema pallidum. It causes formation of painless, small sores on the genitals, in the mouth or rectum.

3. Causes Related to Cancer

Other types of bumps on skin may be caused by cancer of skin. There are several kinds of skin cancer, including:

  • Actinic keratosis: It is a precancerous condition of the skin that is characterized by presence of crusty, scaly spots on areas exposed to sun, such as arms, hands and face. These bumps are gray, pink or brown in color.
  • Basal cell carcinoma: It is a type of skin cancer that affects the topmost layer of the skin. It is characterized by formation of painful bumps that may bleed in early stages.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: It is a type of cancer of the skin that starts in the squamous cells, the cells that are present in the outermost layer of the skin. The condition is characterized by formation of red, scaly and raised sores and patches on the skin.
  • Melanoma: It is the most serious form of cancer of the skin. It starts as a mole that is asymmetrical, large, multi-colored with irregular borders.

When to See a Doctor

You should visit your physician if:

  • Bumps worsen or change in appearance or do not resolve.
  • You have constant pain or discomfort.
  • You are unaware of the cause of the skin bumps.
  • You suspect your skin bumps to be due to either an infection or cancer.

What Can You Do with the Skin Bumps?

Treatment for skin bumps depends on the cause. Majority of the skin bumps are harmless and may resolve on their own. However, you may get them removed for cosmetic reasons. For instance, you can get warts or skin tags removed by a dermatologist. Certain skin bumps such as lipomas and cysts can also be removed surgically. If your skin bumps are found to be precancerous or cancerous, they will be removed by your physician.

For common causes, your physician may prescribe antibiotics for bumps on skin due to bacterial infection. Your physician may recommend home treatments and OTC medicines for viral infections such as chicken pox. There is no cure for certain viral infections such as herpes. However, your physician can prescribe medicines to ease your symptoms.

It is recommended that you apply at least 1 oz. of sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or more to the exposed areas of your body ½ an hour before going out in the sun. If you plan to remain out for a long duration you should apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or more. You should avoid direct exposure to sunlight especially between 10 am and 4 pm.