Raised skin bumps are very common, and in most cases they’re
harmless. They can result from a number of conditions, including:
- an infection
- an allergic reaction
- a skin disorder
- skin cancer
Skin bumps can vary in appearance and number depending on
the cause. They may be the same color as your skin or a different color. They
may be itchy or non-itchy, large or small. Some can be hard while others can feel
soft and movable.
Most skin bumps don’t need treatment. However, you should
speak with your doctor if your bumps are causing discomfort. You should also
call your doctor if you’re concerned about any changes in your bumps or in the
overall condition of your skin.
Causes and types of raised skin bumps
Many conditions can cause raised bumps to appear on your
skin. The most common causes of bumps are harmless and don’t require medical
treatment, unless you have discomfort. Here are some of the possible reasons
for raised skin bumps:
- Acne is the most common skin
condition in the United States, according to the American Academy of
It causes skin bumps that can range from very small and painless to large and
painful. The bumps are usually accompanied by redness and swelling.
allergic skin reaction that produces an itchy, red skin rash. The rash may
consist of raised, red bumps that ooze, drain, or crust.
- Angiomas are common skin growths that can form on most
areas of the body. They develop when blood vessels clump together and create a
raised, bright red bump under or on the skin.
- Boils are infected hair follicles
that look like red, raised bumps on the skin. They can be painful, but they
eventually go away once they burst and release fluid.
- Cold sores are red, fluid-filled bumps
that form around the mouth or other areas of the face, which can burst. They
are caused by a common virus called herpes simplex.
rough, thickened areas of skin. They are most often found on the feet and hands.
- Cysts are growths that contain
fluid, air, or other substances. They develop under the skin in any part of the
body. They feel like a small ball and can usually be moved around slightly.
- Insect stings and bites are often itchy and swollen.
They may cause pain that lingers.
- Keloids are smooth, raised growths
that form around scars. They are most commonly found on the chest, shoulders,
- Keratosis pilaris is a skin condition marked
by an overgrowth of a protein called keratin. It causes small bumps around hair
follicles on the body.
- Lipomas are collections of fatty tissue under the skin and are often
painless. They usually form on the neck, back, or shoulders.
- Moles are flat or raised bumps on the skin that are usually
benign. They can be skin-colored or dark brown.
small, flesh-colored bumps with a dimple in the center that often form in all
parts of the body. They can arise from skin-to-skin contact with someone
affected with them.
- Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes scaly, itchy, red patches to
form on the skin. It can affect any area of the body.
rough spots on the surface of the skin. They can affect many areas of the body,
including the chest, shoulders, and back. They may be skin-colored, brown, or
small, fleshy flaps of skin. They usually grow on the neck or in the armpits.
They may be the same color as the skin or slightly darker.
- Warts are raised, rough bumps
caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They typically develop on
the hands and feet. They may be skin-colored, pink, or slightly brown.
Less commonly, raised skin bumps are caused by more serious conditions
that require treatment. Certain bacterial and viral infections cause bumps and
will only get worse if they go undiagnosed and untreated. These serious
- chickenpox, a common childhood virus
characterized by red, itchy bumps that form all over the body
- genital herpes, a sexually transmitted infection
(STI) that causes painful, fluid-filled bumps to form in the genital area
sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by certain strains of HPV,
resulting in painful or itchy warts on the genitals
- MRSA (staph)
an illness triggered by a staph bacteria that commonly lives on the skin, causing
a swollen, painful bump with a white center
- scabies, a skin infestation caused
by a tiny mite called Sarcoptes scabiei,
producing an itchy, pimple-like rash
an infection caused by group A streptococcus
bacteria, which triggers a bright red, bumpy "sandpaper" rash on the body
- syphilis, a sexually transmitted
infection triggered by Treponema pallidum
bacteria, causing small, painless sores to form on the sexual organs, in
the rectum, or inside the mouth
types of raised skin bumps can be caused by skin cancer. There are
several types of skin cancer, all requiring medical management and treatment:
is a precancerous skin condition characterized by scaly, crusty spots on areas
of sun-exposed skin, such as hands, arms, or face. These spots are typically
brown, gray, or pink. The affected area may itch or burn.
is a form of cancer that affects the top layer of skin. It produces painful
bumps that bleed in the early stages. The associated bumps appear on sun-exposed
skin and may be discolored, shiny, or scar-like.
cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in the squamous cells.
These cells make up the outermost layer of skin. The condition causes scaly,
red patches and raised sores to develop on the skin. These abnormal growths often
form in areas exposed to ultraviolet radiation.
- Melanoma is the least common but most serious form of skin cancer. It
begins as an atypical mole. Cancerous moles are often asymmetrical, multi-colored,
and large, with irregular borders. They can appear anywhere on the body.
When to see a doctor about
raised skin bumps
skin bumps are harmless and aren’t cause for concern. However, you
should see your doctor if:
- skin bumps change or worsen in appearance, or
last for a long time
- you are in pain or they cause discomfort
- you don’t know the cause of the bumps
- you suspect you have an infection or skin cancer
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and inspect
the skin bumps. Expect to answer questions about your bumps, medical history,
and lifestyle habits.
Your doctor may also perform a skin biopsy to test if the
skin bump is cancerous. This procedure involves taking a small sample of skin
tissue from the affected area for analysis. Depending on the results, your
doctor may refer you to a dermatologist or other specialist for further
for raised skin bumps
Treatment for raised skin bumps depends on the underlying
cause. Most of the common causes of skin bumps are harmless, so you probably
won’t need treatment. However, if your skin bumps are bothering you, you might
be able to have them removed for cosmetic reasons. For example, a dermatologist
can remove skin tags or warts by freezing them off. A dermatologist can also
surgically remove certain skin bumps, including cysts and lipomas. Other bumps
that are itchy or irritated may be treated with topical ointments and creams.
In cases where additional medical treatment is required,
your doctor will prescribe medications that can help eliminate your skin bumps
and the underlying cause. For a bacterial infection, such as MRSA, you may need
antibiotics. For a viral infection, such as chickenpox, your doctor may
recommend over-the-counter medications and home treatments. Some viral
infections, such as herpes, can’t be cured. However, your doctor can give you
medications to ease symptoms.
If your doctor finds that your skin bumps are cancerous or
precancerous, they will most likely remove the bumps completely. You will also
need to attend regular follow-up appointments so your doctor can check the area
and make sure the cancer doesn’t come back.
Long-term outlook for raised skin bumps
For most skin bumps, the long-term outlook is excellent. The
majority of bumps are caused by harmless, temporary conditions that don’t
require treatment. If skin bumps are caused by an infection or long-term
condition, timely medical treatment should either clear it up or effectively ease
the symptoms. The outlook is also good when skin cancer is caught early.
However, frequent follow-ups will be necessary to ensure the cancer doesn’t
return or grow. The outlook for more advanced forms of skin cancer varies with
Written by: Mary Ellen Ellis
on: Apr 12, 2016: University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine
This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.