Armpit Swollen Lymph Nodes

Did you find that your breast tissues extend up into the area of your underarm and that your underarm nurses a cluster of lymph nodes? A lump in the armpit may occur when at least one of these lymph nodes are enlarged. In some cases, armpit lump are small whilst there are some who are extremely noticeable.

Should it be a cause of your worry if you have swollen lymph nodes in the armpit? There could be various causes of armpit lumps, from minor ones such as infection, cysts, irritation caused by antiperspirant or shaving to serious ones such as cancer. How should you know that your armpit lumps need medical attention? Read on to know more details about this condition.

What Causes Swollen Lymph Nodes in Armpit?

Armpit lumps are caused by various conditions; mostly, they are a direct result of an abnormal growth in the tissue and are totally harmless. Don’t shrug armpit lumps off though as there are cases that it’s an indication of a more serious health issue and would need immediate medical help.

Below are some of the most common causes of lumps in the armpit:

  • Cysts  – when body fluids get accumulated in the armpit, swelling can happen, which leads to the formation of cysts.
  • Allergens and skin irritants – many antiperspirants, deodorants, soaps, body washes and laundry detergent contain allergens and skin irritants. These allergens and irritants can lead to dermatitis, a condition that causes tiny blisters and redness.
  • Viral and bacterial infections – bacteria and fungi thrive in moist and warm environtments, making your armpit as the perfect breeding place.
  • Lipomas – another cause of swollen lymph nodes in the armpit is lipomas, a cluster of fatty tissues that is mobile and feels rubbery. Though they are neither painful nor cancerous, lipomas’s growth is rapid.
  • Noncancerous, fibrous tissue growth
  • Reactions to vaccination – vaccines for typhoid, smallpox or MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) can cause lumps in the armpit.
  • Fungal infections – one of the most common known as ringworm, a kind of fungal infection that affects the uppermost layer of your skin and leaves a ring-shaped and red rash.
  • Lupus – is a chronic condition of the immune system that triggers inflammation throughout your body, with the lymph nodes included.
  • Cancer – when you have cancer, lymph nodes in your armpit and chest work overtime. Persistent pain in the lymph node is usually a symptom of lymph, breast, respiratory cancer and leukemia.

How to Tell If Swollen Lymph Nodes in Armpit Are Serious?

Though not all lumps are painful or harmful, you should always pay attention to any newly discovered lump on your body. It is advisable that you seek immediate medical attention to conduct medical examination and some additional testing to determine the seriousness of your lump.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it could be an indication that your armpit lump is more serious:

  • Painless with irregular edge
  • Gradual enlargement
  • A lump that has been there for quite some time and does not go away

Seek a doctor as soon as possible if you are having these symptoms along with the swollen lymph nodes in armpit. This way, more serious causes can be ruled out and treated properly.

Women and Breast Cancer

Many women panic when they feel a lump in their armpit, they fear that it’s a symptom of breast cancer, which is one of the leading cancers in women.

Before you jump into assumption and worry yourself sick, take note of these symptoms of armpit lump that are associated with breast cancer:

  • Cancerous lumps grow in size as time goes by and some even multiply in number.
  • Cancerous lumps neither grow quickly like an infection does nor cause skin redness.
  • If your lump feels painless, hard and in a fixed place, it’s more likely to be cancerous.

How to Diagnose the Condition

The first step in the diagnoses of armpit lumps is a thorough physical examination. You will be asked by your physician with questions like the degree of pain that you feel or any changes in your lump. Your doctor will also examine the lump by hand through massage or palpation, a method used to determine the texture and consistency of the lump.

To rule out allergic reaction, infection or cancerous changes as the cause of the swollen lymph nodes in your armpit, your doctor may order a combination of the tests like chest or breast X-ray, complete blood count, allergy testing and biopsy.

How to Treat the Swollen Lymph Nodes in Armpits

The treatment that will be recommended to you depends on the cause of your lumps.

If it’s a bacterial infection, you will be prescribed with antibiotics. If it’s caused by allergies, you will be given medications for allergy and will be advised to stay away from allergy triggers.

In cases where treatment is not necessary, you may use home remedies like having a warm compress or taking over-the-counter pain killers to ease the discomfort.

If it is cancerous, on the other hand, treatment will depend on the cancer type and stage that you are in. Some treatment for cancerous lumps may involve a combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy or surgery. 

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