Last updated on November 5th, 2017
Do you suffer from armpit cysts yet you do not know why? This is a problem that affects both male and female, they are mostly painless but can also be painful if infected. We have information on not just the causes of but also symptoms, sebaceous cysts, removal treatments, home remedies, and much more.
Cysts are non-cancerous closed sacs or “closed pockets of tissue that can be filled with fluid, pus, or other material” [webmd.com] with their outer wall known as a capsule.
If you touched them, they feel like peas (or a pimple like) beneath your skin surface (and on your internal organs such as kidney, liver, etc.) and they can appear on anywhere. People all ages and gender can have them i.e. they can be in both men and women of all ages.
The most common cysts that will affect your underarm are the acne, sebaceous and epidermal inclusion cysts. However, you can also get the pilonidal ones although they normally “occur on the skin near the cleft of the buttocks.”
- What symptoms do you expect
- Pictures and image
- What causes them?
- Pilonidal cyst armpit
- Small underarm cysts
- Infected cysts under your armpits
- Does an underarm cyst hurt or is it painful
- Sebaceous armpit cyst
- Removal and treatment options
- Do they affect women or female
- Are men affected by cysts on underarm
What symptoms do you expect
In terms of size, they could be small (microscopic) or large and noticeable.
They will be on and around or near your armpits and can be caused by a number causes we are going to discuss. The symptoms you expect might be related to the specific causes.
The most obvious symptom is the abnormal lump-like structure that might develop on your underarm. Another symptom is that fact that most of them are painless (unless raptured, infected or inflamed), grow slowly and they are “smooth to the touch when they are rolled under the skin” [webmd.com].
Pictures and image
To help you see visually how they look like, below is a photo or image. You will get more pictures or photos through this post.
What causes them?
To effectively remove or treat armpit cysts, you must know the reasons why they are coming or their cause. Of course, there are many causes and diagnosis by a professional healthcare personnel might be important. Some of the most common or possible causes include the following.
Shaving and use of deodorants
Cyst in the armpit can be caused by shaving especially if they occur in adolescents who have just begun shaving their underarm hair. Adults can also have them due to shaving. Furthermore, the use of antiperspirant or deodorant may also encourage them. Proper shaving technique is often advised.
Moist, and little light in armpits can encourage bacterial growth especially which can them get into your skin, causing cysts especially the streptococcal and staphylococcal infections. Most people end up with enlarged lymph nodes too when this happens. Antibiotic and other bacterial treatment options are often advised.
Viral and fungal infection
Some fungal and viral infections could be behind this problem. For instance, sporotrichosis, shingle, chicken pox and some problems that may result from HIV AIDS due to a weakened immunity my cause these them.
Cyst and cancer
Presence of lumps on your armpits could be a sign lymphoma cancer that results from a collection of damaged lymphocytes at the affected node.
The swelling may ache and if cancer begins to spread, expect symptoms such as fatigue, fever, night sweats, sudden weight loss, itching, loss of appetite, etc. neck and groin lymph nodes may also be affected. Both the Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, are known to cause lumps on underarms.
Fibrocystic breast changes
Women who suffer from lumpy or tender breasts immediately before their menstrual cycle can end up with lump-like feeling in their armpits. This will happen if the condition extends from your breast tissue to your underarm tissue.
Allergic reactions to vaccines for conditions such as mumps, smallpox, typhoid, rubella, measles, etc. can cause both underarm cysts and swollen or enlarged lymph nodes. This is temporary and it will go away with time.
Sometimes you might suffer from a small bump on arm under skin and groin are due to the many oil and sweat glands in this region. This is due to hidradenitis suppurativa where “clusters of abscesses or subcutaneous boil-like “infections” (oftentimes free of actual bacteria) that most commonly affects apocrine sweat gland-bearing areas, such as the underarms, under the breasts, inner thighs, groin and buttocks” [en.wikipedia.org].
Another possible cause of particularly small ones in armpits is a lipoma. “A lipoma is a slow-growing, fatty lump that’s most often situated between your skin and the underlying muscle layer” [mayoclinic.org]. It is not cancerous, feel doughy and moves if you apply pressure on it. At times, it can be growing and painful. In such a case, removal might be necessary.
Another possible cause could be keratin buildup. When this happens, you end up with epidermoid cysts, which “are noncancerous small bumps beneath the skin.
Epidermoid bumps can appear anywhere on the skin but are most common on the face, neck and trunk” [mayoclinic.org]. They are caused by keratin buildup, they grow slowly, do not need treatment and are painless. If you do not like them, are painful, infected or raptured, you might need to see a doctor for treatment.
Epidermoid cysts are more common in men than women and their sizes vary from a few millimeter to about 5 centimeters.
These are not the only reasons. Other possible causes include cat scratch fever, mononucleosis, infection of a woman’s breast tissue, breast cancer, some medications, autoimmune disorders such as systematic lupus erythematosus, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, excessive sweating, etc.
Pilonidal cyst armpit
This refers to “abscess near or on the natal cleft of the buttocks that often contains hair and skin debris” [en.wikipedia.org]. On rare occasions, they can also affect your genital region, armpits, and navel. To know you have a pilonidal cyst in your armpit, you will have symptoms such as discomfort or a swelling in your underarm, bloody or opaque yellow discharge and unexpected moisture in your underarm.
To treat them, try hot compresses, antibiotic therapy, and use of depilatory creams. Surgical excision may be advised on some occasion
Small underarm cysts
Small cysts can be caused by any of the causes we have mentioned. However, lipoma, some sebaceous cysts, and hidradenitis suppurativa are the most common cause of tiny, little or small ones. Sebaceous ones can at times be very large.
Infected cysts under your armpits
Sometimes, a cyst on underarm may be infected especially if they are popped, they rapture or burst. Some of the common symptoms of an infection include redness, tenderness, pain and warmth around the area affected area. While infection may make them drain, ensure they do not evolve to subcutaneous abscesses. Try warm compresses to encourage them to drain.
Does an underarm cyst hurt or is it painful
In most instances, they are painless but could be painful at times. In case of pain, it could be mild to severe, could come before the actual cyst begins to develop, could be worse as you move your arm and it could be due to infection i.e. once infected, they tend to be painful or sore, red and tender.
In case you have painful ones, the first treatment you should consider should be anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the pain and inflammation. You can then take antibiotics in case you have an infection while surgical and laser procedure will be recommended to completely remove it.
Sebaceous armpit cyst
Sometimes, occlusion of a duct that drains your sebaceous glands can lead to the formation of fluid-filled cysts anywhere on your body including your armpits i.e. “cysts which originate from sebaceous glands and which contain sebum” [Wikipedia.org]. It can be on both your axilla (underarm), left or right axilla alone. They are less common when compared to epidermoid.
The sebaceous cyst in the armpit often appear when your sebaceous glands get blocked, you have high levels of testosterone, you use androgenic anabolic steroids, hereditary factors or you have a swollen hair follicle.
Some of the common symptoms you expect to have to include sore and tender skin, skin redness, “Grayish-white, cheesy, foul-smelling material that drains from the cyst” [nlm.nih.gov] and some warmth on the affected area.
Normally, they do not require medical treatment especially if they are still small. You can try moist warm compress. However, if you want them removed for some reason such as it being large, swollen or tender, removal might involve surgical removal. This is a simple excision process that removes the sac with all its content. Antibiotics might be recommended in case they are infected with bacteria.
Removal and treatment options
I most instances, they will disappear on their own. However, some might require treatment. The removal or treatment option you go for is depended on the cause. A physical exam and wiggle test i.e. “growth by squeezing the lump between thumb and forefinger, and move it back and forth. If it wiggles, it’s probably a cyst” [health.howstuffworks.com] might be helpful in confirming if you actually have the cyst or a lump in your underarm. A biopsy might be necessary if they are suspected to be cancerous. However, they are rarely cancerous.
1. Popping and draining
Some cysts might require popping and draining for the symptoms to disappear. Popping might require a scalpel or needle and it should be done by a specialist. This method does not cure them but relieves the symptoms especially if they are pus-filled. They may heal on their own but this method presents the possibility of them reappearing again.
2. Medications and injections
Cortisone injections can be used to shrink the cysts. This is steroid injection that reduces swelling. Infected ones may require medications such as antibiotics or antifungal, depending on what caused them.
3. Surgical removal
If you have tried all the above treatment without success, you should consider surgical removal. This is only recommended with they are large and they have serious and troubling symptoms. Ignoring large ones on your armpits can hinder your normal activities. Instead of the normal surgical removal, laser surgery can also be used.
4. Home remedies
There are many home remedies that can be used to treat underarm cysts. Some of the popular remedies you should try to include hot compresses, washing with antibacterial soap and if they, clean it with an antibacterial ointment to reduce chances of infection.
However, do not pop, squeeze or open them since this leads to scarring, infection and it might increase the chances of more appearing. However, if it is puss filled and it has ripened, you can actually pop and drain it.
Do they affect women or female
In a female, they can be due to any of the causes we have already mentioned. However, some causes such as fibrocystic breast changes and infection of a woman’s breast tissue are unique to women alone.
Are men affected by cysts on underarm
As mentioned early, they affect anyone including children, teens, and adults. Any of the above causes can be a reason for men, except for the causes that affect only women. However, epidermoid and sebaceous cysts (if one uses androgenic anabolic steroids or has high testosterone levels) are more common in men than women.
References and sources