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.
Many conditions can cause raised bumps to appear on your skin. Here is a list of 25 possible causes.
Warning: graphic images ahead.
- Commonly located on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, and upper back
- Breakouts on the skin composed of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, or deep, painful cysts and nodules
- May leave scars or darken the skin if untreated
- Red, painful, fluid-filled blister that appears near the mouth and lips
- Affected area will often tingle or burn before the sore is visible
- Outbreaks may also be accompanied by mild, flu-like symptoms such as low fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes
Corns and calluses
- Small, round circles of thickened skin with a painful, horn-like central area of hardened tissue
- Commonly found on the tops and sides of toes and on the soles of the feet
- Caused by friction and pressure
- Skin growth that can become up to half an inch long
- Same color as your skin or slightly darker
- Most likely caused by friction
- Commonly found near the neck, armpits, breasts, groin, stomach, or eyelids
- Small to medium growth that may be filled with tissue, fluid, or both
- Usually wider than a pimple and may look like a firm, smooth elevation under the skin
- Usually harmless, but may cause discomfort if it presses on other structures
- Nodules may also be located deep inside the body where you cannot see or feel them
- Common in babies and children
- Rash is often located in the area around the mouth, chin, and nose
- Irritating rash and fluid-filled blisters that pop easily and form a honey-colored crust
- Bumps that may appear in a patch of up to 20
- Small, shiny, and smooth
- Flesh-colored, white, or pink
- Firm and dome-shaped with a dent or dimple in the middle
- Soft to the touch and moves easily if prodded with your finger
- Small, just under the skin, and pale or colorless
- Commonly located in the neck, back, or shoulders
- Only painful if it grows into nerves
- Slow-growing bump under the skin that has a smooth surface
- Can be large or small, and is usually painless
- Typically isn’t a problem unless infected, very large, or growing in a sensitive area
- Some cysts grow deep inside your body where you can’t see or feel them
- Caused by many different types of a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)
- May be found on the skin or mucous membranes
- May occur singly or in groups
- Contagious and may be passed to others
- Typically less than 2 cm, or about the size of a pencil eraser
- Thick, scaly, or crusty skin patch
- Appears on parts of the body that receive a lot of sun exposure (hands, arms, face, scalp, and neck)
- Usually pink in color but can have a brown, tan, or gray base
Basal cell carcinoma
- Raised, firm, and pale areas that may resemble a scar
- Dome-like, pink or red, shiny, and pearly areas that may have a sunk-in center, like a crater
- Visible blood vessels on the growth
- Easy bleeding or oozing wound that doesn't seem to heal, or heals and then reappears
Squamous cell carcinoma
- Often occurs in areas exposed to UV radiation, such as the face, ears, and back of the hands
- Scaly, reddish patch of skin progresses to a raised bump that continues to grow
- Growth that bleeds easily and doesn't heal, or heals and then reappears
- The most serious form of skin cancer, more common in fair-skinned people
- Mole anywhere on the body that has irregularly shaped edges, asymmetrical shape, and multiple colors
- Mole that has changed color or gotten bigger over time
- Usually larger than a pencil eraser
- Bacterial or fungal infection of a hair follicle or oil gland
- Can appear anywhere on the body, but are most common on the face, neck, armpit, and buttock
- Red, painful, raised bump with a yellow or white center
- May rupture and weep fluid
- Clear, watery, fluid-filled blister that is greater than 1 cm in size
- Can be caused by friction, contact dermatitis, and other skin disorders
- If clear liquid turns milky, there might be an infection
- Appears hours to days after contact with an allergen
- Rash has visible borders and appears where your skin touched the irritating substance
- Skin is itchy, red, scaly, or raw
- Blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty
- Common skin growth that can be found anywhere on the body, but is most likely to be seen on the torso, arms, legs, and shoulders
- More common in people over 30
- Small, bright red circular or oval spots that may be raised or smooth and bleed if rubbed or scratched
- Generally harmless but may require removal if they’re in problem areas
- Symptoms occur at the site of a previous injury
- Lumpy or rigid area of skin that may be painful or itchy
- Area that is flesh-colored, pink, or red
- Common skin condition most often seen on the arms and legs, but might also occur on the face, buttocks, and trunk
- Often clears up on its own by age 30
- Patches of skin that appear bumpy, slightly red, and feel rough
- May get worse in dry weather
- Common, harmless skin growth that is usually seen in older individuals
- Can be located anywhere on the body except for the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
- Round, oval, dark-colored growth with a “stuck-on” appearance
- Raised and bumpy with a waxy feel
- Clusters of itchy, red, fluid-filled blisters in various stages of healing all over the body
- Rash is accompanied by fever, body aches, sore throat, and loss of appetite
- Remains contagious until all blisters have crusted over
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
- Symptoms may take four to six weeks to appear
- Extremely itchy rash may be pimply, made up of tiny blisters, or scaly
- Raised, white or flesh-toned lines
- Red or purplish raised mark commonly located on the face, scalp, back, or chest
- Appears at birth or in very young children
- Gradually gets smaller or disappears as the child ages
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.
- Cherry angiomas 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.
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 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.
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.