If you’ve noticed a lump on the top of your foot, you most likely did a quick assessment, perhaps considering such questions as:
- Is it painful?
- Is it soft or hard?
- Is it a different color than other foot skin?
- Have you had a recent injury to the area?
A number of potential ailments can produce a lump on top of your foot. A quick inspection can help you identify the cause.
Here are nine possibilities, listed in alphabetical order.
A bone spur that grows out of a joint on the top of your foot is often referred to as a dorsal boss, dorsal exostosis, or tarsal boss. It’s an extra growth of bone tissue.
Bone spurs typically develop when your body grows extra bone in an attempt to repair damage caused by regular stress or pressure placed on a bone for a long period of time.
Bone spurs can occur in any bone, but they’re most common in the joints. They’re often caused by joint damage associated with osteoarthritis.
Small sacs filled with lubricating fluid reduce friction and irritation between the bone, tendons, muscle, and skin near your joints. These sacs are called bursae. Bursitis is the result of one of these sacs becoming inflamed. Bursitis can hinder movement and cause pain.
Bursitis can occur on many places throughout your body, including the base of your big toe where your toe and foot connect. Symptoms usually last a few weeks and can be treated by resting the impacted area, applying ice and, if needed, taking an over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, such ibuprofen or aspirin.
Make an appointment with your doctor if:
- your bursitis does not improve in two weeks
- your pain becomes severe
- there’s excessive swelling in the affected area
Cutaneous horns are a rare condition generally found on the face, neck, or shoulders. Sometimes, they appear on the foot.
The growths are made of keratin, a protein found in the top layer of the skin. The name comes from its bumpy, spiked shape which resembles an animal’s horn.
A cutaneous horn may be a sign of cancer, so consult your doctor if you believe you have one. If you’ve been diagnosed with a cutaneous horn, call your doctor if there’s:
- inflammation around the area
- rapid growth
- the horn hardens at its base
Ganglion cysts are lumps of tissue filled with fluid that resembles jelly. They can range in size from imperceptible to an inch or more in diameter. They’re not cancerous.
A person may have no symptoms or they may have:
- tingling in the affected area
- loss of mobility
While ganglion cysts sometimes go away without treatment, you may decide to have it removed. Your doctor will remove the cyst through surgical means or will drain the cyst by removing the fluid with a syringe.
Gout is the result of a uric acid crystal buildup. It causes swelling and inflammation in the foot, usually around the base of your big toe. The pain and burning sensation can come about suddenly.
Your doctor may conduct a blood test, an X-ray, or an ultrasound to diagnose. They’ll likely recommend medication for treatment. Lifestyle changes to manage symptoms include adjusting your diet and quitting smoking.
Hallux rigidus is a form of arthritis that occurs at the base of your big toe when cartilage is damaged or lost. It’s generally experienced between the ages of 30 and 60. It causes pain and stiffness when walking or the inability to move your big toe.
Treatment options include soaking your feet (alternating between warm and cold water) and wearing shoes that keep your big toe from bending. In some cases, if the condition worsens over time, your doctor may recommend surgery.
If a lump appears beneath your skin and is soft to the touch and easily movable with your finger, you may have a lipoma. A lipoma is a noncancerous growth of fatty tissue. It can appear anywhere on the body, including the top of your foot.
Your doctor can test for lipoma through a physical exam or a biopsy. Since they’re typically considered harmless, your doctor might recommend leaving it alone. If necessary, a lipoma can be surgically removed.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you might develop firm lumps under the skin called rheumatoid nodules. They can be as large as a walnut or as small as a pea. They usually occur near joints affected by the arthritis. They’re typically not painful unless they’re close to a nerve or there’s an underlying inflammation.
If your rheumatoid nodules do not shrink with rheumatoid arthritis treatment such as DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs), your doctor may suggest other treatment options. This may include a steroid shot directly into the nodules. If the nodules severely limit the use of the joint or become infected, your doctor may recommend surgical removal.
Sebaceous cysts are noncancerous, closed sac cysts that appear under the skin. They’re caused by blocked glands or swollen hair follicles in the skin. Sebaceous cysts are usually found on the face or neck, but can also occur on your foot.
Your doctor may recommend the cyst be injected with a steroid drug or surgically removed if the cyst becomes problematic, such as being irritated by your shoes.
If you have a lump on top of your foot, it may be due to a number of conditions including a bone spur, ganglion cyst, bursitis, gout, or sebaceous cyst.
While many of these conditions can be left alone, some require treatment. A lump on top of your foot might be a symptom of an underlying condition.
Your doctor can properly diagnose your lump and direct you toward appropriate treatment options.