A groin lump refers to any lump that appears in the groin area where the legs and trunk connect.
The lump can vary in shape and size, and it may or may not be painful. You may have a single lump or a collection of lumps in the groin. Some lumps may be mobile. A groin lump may remain skin-colored, or it may turn red or purple. Some groin lumps may ulcerate, or break open, and form sores.
The shape and appearance of a groin lump depend on the cause. See your doctor as soon as possible if you have a groin lump.
Many groin lumps are cysts. Cysts are benign, or noncancerous lumps. They may enlarge to cause pain or discomfort.
Some groin lumps can be indicators of a more serious condition.
If you have an infection or illness, such as a cold, flu, or mononucleosis, your groin lump could be a swollen lymph gland. Typically, these will flare up at the same time as the lymph glands located in your throat or armpits flare up. Your lymph nodes swell to mobilize an immune response against bacteria and foreign particles. The swelling should go away once the illness does. Genitourinary infections may also cause lymph node inflammation in the groin region.
A hernia typically feels like a large, soft lump. It occurs when the intestines or abdominal tissue push through an opening meant to provide a boundary. For example, the intestines may break through a weakened area in the lower abdominal wall. A defect, or weakness, in the abdominal wall coupled with muscle strain usually causes this. Hernias require urgent medical attention.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause groin lumps due to swollen lymph nodes. These include:
Some STIs may cause a cluster of lumps that may break open or form sores. STIs require medical treatment to heal.
If you have a groin lump that disappears when you lie down, it could be a saphena varix. This occurs when the valve of the saphenous vein fails to open correctly to let blood flow through, causing the blood to collect inside the vein.
Saphena varix causes golf-ball sized lumps that have a blue tinge. You’re more likely to develop this condition if you have varicose veins, which are enlarged veins that usually occur in the legs or feet. Saphena varix is an extremely rare condition.
You should seek medical attention as soon as possible after noticing a groin lump and return to your doctor if the lump remains after three weeks of treatment or if your condition worsens.
Because there are so many possible causes of a groin lump, your doctor will need to ask you a series of questions. This will include questions about your current health and if you’ve been experiencing any other symptoms.
You may have a blood test to check for signs of infection. Your doctor will feel your lymph nodes for inflammation.
Your doctor will ask you questions about the lump, such as:
- When did the lump first appear?
- How big is the lump?
- Has the lump grown?
- Did the lump develop suddenly or over a few days?
- Does the lump change in size or shape when you cough?
They may also ask you whether you could have contracted an STI. Most STIs are diagnosed using a blood test, a urine test, or a swab of the urethra.
The treatment you receive will depend on the cause of the groin lump:
- Your doctor may recommend surgery to remove a cyst if it’s large or painful.
- A hernia may require surgery to move the tissue back into place and close the hole in the boundary tissue.
- Swollen glands will typically go down in time, but your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat an underlying infection.
Your doctor should always promptly examine a groin lump.
While cysts and swollen glands aren’t likely to cause any long-term complications, a hernia can be fatal if you don’t get treatment for it quickly. An incarcerated hernia occurs when part of the intestine becomes trapped in the abdominal wall, causing a bowel obstruction.
This can lead to vomiting, severe pain, and nausea. A strangulated hernia is a medical emergency. It occurs when part of the intestine is trapped, cutting off blood flow. This condition can quickly lead to the death of intestinal tissue and requires emergency surgery.
STIs that cause groin lumps, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, can lead to infertility if left untreated. Infections such as syphilis can cause blindness, paralysis, and dementia. All STIs require medication to treat and can easily spread to others through unprotected vaginal or oral sex.
Most groin lumps occur naturally and aren’t preventable. However, you can help prevent an STI by always using a condom.
If you’re at risk of developing a hernia, you may be able to reduce the chances of it occurring by avoiding heavy lifting, not straining during bowel movements, and maintaining a healthy weight. You may be more at risk of a hernia if you:
- have a family history of hernias
- are overweight
- are pregnant
have a chronic cough