Most swollen glands or lumps under the skin are not cause for concern. The glands (lymph nodes) on either side of the neck, under the jaw, or behind the ears commonly swell when you have a cold or sore throat.
More serious infections may cause the glands to enlarge and become very firm and tender. Glands can also swelland become tender after an injury, such as a cut or bite, or when a tumor or infection occurs in the mouth, head, or neck.
Swollen glands and other lumps under the skin can be caused by many different things, including illness, infection, or another cause.
Swollen glands commonly develop when the body fights infections from colds, insect bites, or small cuts. More serious infections may cause the glands to enlarge and become firm, hard, or tender. Examples of such infections include:
Types of noncancerous (benign) growths, which are usually harmless, include:
Hernias or aneurysms are bulging sections in a muscle or blood vessel. A nodule is usually a growth on a gland. A hernia, aneurysm, or nodule may be felt under the skin but may not be visible. These types of lumps may need more medical evaluation.
A lump caused by cancer is usually hard, irregularly shaped, and firmly fixed under the skin or deep in tissue. Although they usually do not cause pain, some types of cancerous lumps are painful. Most lumps are not caused by cancer.
Swelling may also be caused by:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Symptoms of infection may include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Hyperthyroidism occurs when your body has too much thyroid hormone.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:
A soft lump in one of these areas (belly button, groin, past surgical site) may be a hernia. A hernia can occur when there is a weakening in the muscle wall and part of an internal organ (often part of the bowel) pushes through.
With a hernia, the lump may go away when you press on it or lie down, and it may get worse when you cough. It may or may not be painful.
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
The following home treatment measures may help you treat a painful lump or swollen gland.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
Wash your hands frequently during cold and cough season. This may help prevent some upper respiratory infections that cause glands to swell.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
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