A bump in humans is colloquially a visible or palpable protrusion of the skin on part of the body. The most common causes are water retention, tissue proliferation or organ enlargement. A bump caused by an injury usually disappears on its own after a few days. A bump that appears for no apparent cause and that keeps getting bigger should be examined early by a doctor. In some cases, this can be a sign of a condition that should be treated.


The formation of bumps is not based on a uniform disease, but there are a multitude of possible causes that can lead to the visible or palpable protrusion under the skin.

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A common cause of bumps is blunt injuries, such as bumping your head or shin. Small blood vessels in the skin can burst and blood leak into the tissue. Such bumps caused by an injury are the most common, and in most cases harmless. Depending on the size and location, they usually regress within a few days. Insect bites can also lead to a bump, which also disappears after a few days.

Another possible cause of bumps is swollen lymph nodes, for example on the neck. If you have a cold with a sore throat, it is more common for the lymph nodes to enlarge as a sign of the body's defense against infection. After the disease has cured, the bumps on the neck usually recede. Another group of bumps are those that appear without any apparent cause. These can appear all over the body and should be examined by a doctor to be on the safe side if they do not go away after about two weeks or continue to grow. Again, there are a multitude of possible causes and only in rare cases is there an illness that requires treatment.

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Since this type of bump can be a sign of cancer in a small number of cases, it is important to examine it in good time, as this means that any necessary treatment can be carried out as early as possible. The same applies to rare diseases that lead to the appearance of bumps on different parts of the body. These include, for example, infectious diseases that are triggered by viruses or bacteria.

According to location

Bump under the skin

A bump that can be felt or seen under the skin is caused by the tissue beneath it. A common cause of a bump under the skin is a benign fatty tissue ulcer (Lipoma), which can develop all over the body. A bump under the skin in the neck area is often an enlarged lymph node. Other possible locations for lymph node swelling, which can be responsible for a bump under the skin, are the armpit region and the groin.

Such bumps should be examined by a doctor if they persist for more than two weeks, if they become larger or appear in different parts of the body. In some cases, a condition that needs treatment is the cause of the bumps. A completely different cause of bumps under the skin can be breaks in the abdominal wall. These are protuberances of the peritoneum caused by weak points in the abdominal wall. This can lead to a bump in the groin or on the belly button, for example. A prompt examination by a doctor is also recommended for such bumps under the skin. The hernia often has to be surgically corrected soon, as otherwise a life-threatening entrapment of a loop of intestine and thus intestinal obstruction can occur. Nevertheless, in most cases, bumps under the skin are harmless, go away on their own, or at least do not need treatment.

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Read more on the topic: Bump under the skin

bump on the head

A bump on the head is usually the result of a blunt injury, for example when you hit your head or receive a blow. There, the tissue layer consisting of skin, subcutaneous fat and a tendon plate up to the bony skull is very thin compared to most other body regions. If you hit your head, there is therefore less soft tissue on the one hand, which could cushion the force. On the other hand, the tissue fluid or blood on the head that escapes as a result of the injury has little space to spread. As a result, bumps are more likely to develop on the head than if you hit other parts of the body. In rare cases, a bump appears on the head with no injury or other apparent cause. If this occurs on the back of the head, it can be, for example, a swelling of the lymph nodes as an indication of an inflammatory reaction. A bump on the back of the head that arises without a trigger, persists for several weeks, or becomes larger and larger should be examined by a doctor. For many people, a bony protrusion can be felt in the middle of the back of the head, which can possibly be mistaken for a bump. This is completely normal and palpable in some people and less so in some.

Read more on the topic: Bump on forehead

Lump behind the ear

A bump behind the ear is often a swollen lymph node. These components of the body's own defense system can enlarge in the event of an inflammatory reaction. The cause of a swelling of the lymph nodes behind the ear can be, for example, an inflamed tooth or an otitis media. In addition, various viral infectious diseases cause swelling behind the ear and often in other areas of the body. A typical bump behind the ear often occurs with rubella, a childhood disease. This disease must therefore also be considered in children and adults who are not vaccinated. A skin rash also develops on the body.

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Also read the article Lump on the neck.

Lump on elbow

A bump on the elbow is often caused by bursitis (Bursitis). The elbow joint, like some other joints, has bursae that serve as a kind of cushion. An injury or excessive strain (for example during sport) can inflame it. The resulting bump is usually very painful, reddened and overheated. The bursitis is first treated by resting and protecting the joint, occasional cooling and, if necessary, anti-inflammatory pain pills or ointments. Often the bump on the elbow recedes after a few days after these measures.

More on this under Lump on elbow

Bump on the wrist

The most common cause of a bump on the wrist is a so-called ganglion, which is also referred to as the excess leg. It is a bulging, elastic blister that can arise from thickened synovial fluid. The bump is benign and does not necessarily need to be removed. In some cases, however, the upper leg can press on a nerve. This usually manifests itself as a tingling sensation or numbness in the fingers of the affected hand. In such a case, the ganglion should be removed by a minor surgical procedure. The same applies if the bump restricts the mobility of the joint or if the bump is perceived as annoying for other reasons. In some cases, however, the excess leg disappears on its own without treatment, so that it is often possible to wait first.

Lump on the back

The possible causes for a bump on the back do not differ in principle from those for bumps in general. Often it is the result of a blunt injury such as a fall on the back. An insect bite can also be responsible for the usually itchy bump. In addition, sebum glands on the back can become inflamed, leading to an often painful and reddened bump with purulent contents. Another, equally harmless, cause of a bump on the back is a lipoma. It is a benign fatty tissue tumor that usually does not require treatment.

You might also be interested in this topic: Lipoma on the back- which treatment is best?

Lump on knee

A bump on the knee is most likely the result of an injury, such as a fall or playing sports. An inflammatory process can also be the cause. Structures that can often become inflamed are bursae, which are used to relieve pressure in the joint. A bump in the hollow of the knee is in most cases a Baker's cyst. This is a fluid-filled protrusion of the connective tissue joint capsule, which surrounds the knee from the inside like a kind of stocking.

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Read more about this: Treatment of a Baker's cyst

Lump on the shin

Bumps are very common on the shin. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the bone is very close to the skin and there are few soft tissues to protect against injury. On the other hand, you can easily bump your shin, for example during sport, but also on other occasions. Due to the very thin layer of tissue that lies on the shin in front of the bone, escaping tissue water cannot spread well as a result of an injury. As a result, bumps and bruises appear on the shin more often than most other parts of the body. A bump on the shin that has no apparent cause and persists for two weeks should be examined by a doctor.

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Bump on foot

A bump on the foot can have different causes. On the one hand, it can be a so-called over-leg, which sometimes arises on the joints and tendon sheaths and is harmless. In addition, the bump can come from the bony structures of the foot. In the vast majority of cases, these are also benign growths that do not require treatment. In some cases, a bump on the foot causes discomfort, for example because it is pressing on a nerve or because it is painful when wearing shoes. In such a case, the bump should be examined by a doctor and treated if necessary.

You might also be interested in this topic: Warts on the sole of the foot

Concomitant symptoms

Depending on the cause of the bump, various accompanying symptoms can occur, which can often also provide an indication of the cause. For example, if you hit your head and create a bump, small blood vessels can burst. An accompanying symptom is a bruise that turns yellow after a few days and green a little later. After about a week, both the bump and the bruise will usually go away again.

Bumps caused by inflammation usually cause pain as an accompanying symptom. In addition, the affected region is often reddened and overheated. If an insect bite is the cause of the bump, itching is a typical accompanying symptom. A bump pressing on a nerve can cause abnormal sensation and numbness. If a bump in the groin, neck or armpit region is accompanied by symptoms such as fatigue, unwanted weight loss or fever, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible, as these may be signs of a serious inflammatory disease or malignant cancer.


Due to the large number of possible causes that can lead to the formation of a bump, no uniform statement about the treatment is possible. For the vast majority of the bumps, the cause is harmless and no special therapy is required. This often disappears on its own. If an injury has led to the formation of the bump, it can be temporarily cooled by a cool pack wrapped in a towel.

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In the case of severe pain, an anti-inflammatory and analgesic medication can be taken for a short time, provided there are no counter-indications. Only with a small proportion of bumps is the cause of a disease that requires targeted treatment. For example, a benign ulcer must be removed if it presses on nerves or blood vessels. Bumps resulting from an inflammatory condition may require drug treatment. If there is the rare case that the cause of the bump is a malignant cancer, in addition to detailed diagnostics, treatment must be carried out as soon as possible. This depends on the type and spread of the cancer and can consist of treatment with medication, surgery or radiation.

Also read: Bump on anus


Due to the large number of possible causes, no statement can be made about the duration of a bump. Most bumps are harmless and go away on their own within a few days to weeks. However, some bumps last a lifetime without ever expressing any discomfort. Bumps that have existed for weeks and get bigger and bigger are suspect. To be certain, bumps that persist for over two weeks should be examined by a doctor.


The first and most important steps in making a diagnosis of bumps are a medical consultation and a palpation examination. The doctor asks specific questions about the formation and development of the bump, accompanying symptoms such as pain or itching, as well as secondary diseases and the use of medication. During the examination, the doctor pays attention to signs of inflammation, the consistency and mobility of the bump. On the basis of the findings and the localization, a diagnosis or at least a suspicion can often already be expressed. In a typical constellation, the doctor can make a visual diagnosis before the examination. In some cases, further diagnostics are necessary, for example by taking a blood sample or an ultrasound examination. Otherwise the doctor will recommend treatment right away.

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