Raised skin bumps are very common, and in most cases they're harmless. They can result from a number of conditions, including infections, allergic reactions, skin disorders, and 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, 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.
Conditions that cause raised skin bumps, with pictures
Many conditions can cause raised bumps to appear on your skin. Here is a list of 25 possible causes. Warning: graphic images ahead.
MRSA (staph) infection
This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.
- An infection caused by a type of Staphylococcus, or staph, bacteria that's resistant to many different antibiotics
- Causes an infection when it enters through a cut or scrape on the skin
- Skin infection often looks like a spider bite, with a painful, raised, red pimple that may drain pus
- Needs to be treated with powerful antibiotics and can lead to more dangerous conditions like cellulitis or blood infection
Causes and types of raised skin bumps
The most common causes of raised skin 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 Dermatology. 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.
- 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.
- Bullae are raised, fluid-filled bumps that can result from friction, or conditions like contact dermatitis and chickenpox.
- 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.
- Cold sores are red, fluid-filled bumps that form around the mouth or other areas of the face and can burst. They're caused by a common virus called herpes simplex.
- Contact dermatitis is an allergic skin reaction that produces an itchy, red skin rash. The rash may consist of raised, red bumps that ooze, drain, or crust.
- Corns or calluses are rough, thickened areas of skin. They're 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.
- Keloids are smooth, raised growths that form around scars. They're most commonly found on the chest, shoulders, and cheeks.
- 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.
- Molluscum contagiosum are 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.
- Nodules result from growth of abnormal tissue, and can appear on the skin in common areas like the armpits, groin, and head and neck region.
- Seborrheic keratoses are round, 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 black.
- Skin tags are 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.
- Strawberry nevus is a red birthmark also known as a hemangioma. They are most common in young children and usually disappear by age 10.
- 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 conditions include:
- chickenpox, a common childhood virus characterized by red, itchy bumps that form all over the body
- impetigo, a bacterial skin infection common in young children that is highly contagious and results in reddish blisters that ooze and develop a honey-colored crust
- MRSA (staph) infection, 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
Other types of raised skin bumps can be caused by skin cancer. There are several types of skin cancer, all requiring medical management and treatment:
- Actinic keratosis 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.
- Basal cell carcinoma 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.
- Squamous 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
Most 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 evaluation.
Treatment 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 each situation.