Medically reviewed by Mary Choy, PharmD
Raised skin bumps can be a result of a variety of skin conditions. They vary greatly from person to person in appearance, size, and body placement. Although they may not be aesthetically pleasing, they are common and usually have no cause for concern.
This article provides an overview of the common types of raised skin bumps, diagnosis, treatment, and when to see a doctor.
Skin bumps can be caused by hormones, bacteria, dirt, clogged pores, irritation, viruses, heat, sun exposure, injury, accumulation of fat, or fluid. It's always a good idea to get an accurate diagnosis to determine the cause and to receive a patient-centered treatment regimen.
Acne can appear as red bumps, whiteheads, blackheads, pus-filled pimples (pustules), or cysts (acne that penetrates deep into the skin). The type of acne people get depends on what is responsible for clogging the pores.
Most of the time acne is caused by hormones. Hormones called androgens can increase the size of oil glands. Existing acne can worsen if you use oily skin care or hair products. A lack of sleep may also be a cause. Newborns may have acne, known as neonatal acne, in the first six weeks of life. This acne is harmless and typically goes away on its own.
People with allergies may develop hives or other types of raised skin bumps when they encounter an allergen. People with food allergies may develop hives when they ingest food that they are allergic to.
This can be extremely serious if a person has an allergy that can cause anaphylaxis. In this case, hives can be red and resemble welts that are incredibly itchy. Depending on your allergy action plan and whether symptoms are present, you may need to use an antihistamine, like Benadryl (diphenhydramine), or in severe instances, your epinephrine autoinjector.
An anaphylaxis reaction usually occurs within five to 30 minutes after exposure. However, it can occur later.
Symptoms may include hives, a swollen or sore throat, wheezing, passing out, trouble breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, chest tightness, and stomach cramping. All people at risk of anaphylaxis should carry an EpiPen (epinephrine autoinjector).
Blisters, also known as vesicles, are small bubble-like raised bumps that are formed when fluid is trapped under the skin. They can occur anywhere but are more commonly found on the hands and feet. Several factors can cause blisters, including viral, bacterial, and fungal infections; burns; eczema; autoimmune diseases; and friction.
Different types of viral infections can cause raised bumps on the skin. These infections may cause viral rashes. Typically, healthcare providers can determine which type of infection a person has by the location, size, pattern, and appearance of the rash.
For example, shingles is a viral infection that can cause a blister-like rash. Most of the time, viral infections that cause rashes are accompanied by other symptoms.
Skin cancer can vary greatly in appearance, depending on the type you have and the stage. The skin bumps may appear red, pink, brown, black, or your skin color.
Learn More: Symptoms of Skin Cancer
Boils are pus-filled, red, and irritated raised skin bumps that usually occur when bacteria or fungus infect a hair follicle. They come in all sizes and can occur on any part of the body. The treatment will depend on the cause.
A callus is thickened skin that develops to help alleviate a pressure site and can go into deeper layers of skin. They usually occur due to repetitive movement, pressure, and friction. Calluses are generally harmless but can be problematic in people with diabetes who have high blood sugar and peripheral neuropathy.
Learn More: Diabetic Foot Ulcers
Skin tags are usually harmless growths that are small and flesh-colored, brown, or even red. Skin tags can be found on the eyes, armpits, neck, groin, and anus. They usually do not hurt but can get stuck on clothes. Skin tags have been associated with obesity, genetic factors, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and abnormal lipid profiles.
A nodule is a general term for a growth or lump that is at least 1 centimeter in size. They can be found throughout various parts of the body.
Nodules can be benign or malignant. They can develop just below the skin or in deeper tissues like organs. Nodules can be solid, filled with liquid, or both.
Molluscum contagiosum is a contagious skin infection caused by a virus. It causes small, smooth, and firm lesions that are white, pink, or flesh-colored with a dimple in the center.
These raised bumps are a result of an infection caused by a poxvirus. Lesions usually resolve on their own in six to 12 months but can take up to four years. Molluscum contagiosum is more common in children ages 1 to 10 but can occur in anyone.
In July of 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Ycanth (cantharidin) as a treatment for MC in individuals aged 2 and above. Ycanth is a topical treatment and is the first FDA-approved therapy for MC. Your healthcare provider will apply Ycanth in-office every three weeks until the affected area is cleared.
A lipoma is a soft tumor made up of fat cells. These lumps are generally harmless, but people sometimes choose to have them removed for cosmetic reasons. If your lipoma is large, impacts your mobility, or is painful, you will want to have it looked at by your healthcare provider.
A cyst is a type of nodule that is a closed sac and can contain air, fluid, pus, or another substance. Most cysts are benign and are not cancerous.
Cysts can occur anywhere on the body. Where a cyst develops will depend upon what type of cyst it is. For example, ganglion cysts typically develop after microtrauma or minor injuries and occur along the joints or tendons of the wrists, hands, fingers, and feet.
People are more susceptible to this virus on the hands if they cut or damage the skin. Warts are contagious and can spread. They may go away on their own, but if they do not, there are many treatment options available.
Actinic keratosis is a precancerous skin condition that occurs on parts of the body that have not been protected from the sun. It looks like a reddish spot and can sometimes feel like sandpaper.
Actinic keratosis is more common in people who have used tanning beds or have excessive sun damage. People with actinic keratosis should be evaluated by a dermatologist to prevent skin cancer.
Bullae are a type of large blister. Bullae that are filled with blood are called blood blisters. Most blisters are caused by friction and will go away on their own. It not is recommended to pop a blister. Popping could increase the risk of infection and delay healing.
Related: Should You Pop a Blister?
When hair follicles do not exfoliate naturally, they can become clogged with dead skin and cause a bumpy skin rash called keratosis pilaris. This commonly occurs on the arms, thighs, cheeks, and buttocks and is a result of a buildup of keratin in the pores.
People who have a family history of keratosis pilaris are more likely to develop it. Although it is not harmful, many people choose to treat it because they do not like the way it looks. Treatment options range from exfoliating products to prescriptions and procedures.
For many types of raised skin bumps, such as calluses or warts, you might know what you have simply by looking at them. Other types of skin bumps, including viral rashes, chronic acne, and infections, should be examined by a healthcare provider.
Your provider will likely start with a physical examination, closely inspecting your skin. You may be referred to a dermatologist for further testing and treatment.
A wide variety of treatment options is available, depending on your diagnosis. Options include monitoring; using special cleansers, lotions, warm compresses, and medications (oral or topical); excising the skin bump; and treatment with lasers, peels, freezing, and more.
In order to determine the best treatment options, you should meet with your healthcare provider or dermatologist.
When to See a Healthcare Professional
Developing a blister from a tight pair of shoes or after a long golf trip doesn't warrant a medical visit, but suspicious, unfamiliar bumps that are not healing should be examined.
This is especially important if they are accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, limited mobility, fever, joint pain, swelling, or bleeding.
Changes in the size, color, and shape of moles warrant a skin cancer screening. Skin changes that linger and do not go away should also be evaluated.
Raised skin bumps on your body can come from a variety of causes. Most of these conditions, although not always aesthetically pleasing, are harmless.
If you are uncertain about what you have, or if the bump is not going away, is growing, spreading, or worsening, get examined by your healthcare provider. Raised bumps can sometimes indicate skin cancer. Seeing a healthcare provider can help you with a diagnosis that will dictate the treatment plan.
A Word From Verywell
The skin is the largest organ in the body that is fully exposed. Hence, at some point, most of us will likely develop some sort of raised skin bumps. Moles, skin tags, and acne are quite common. Most of the time these conditions are temporary and harmless.
However, if you have a new skin condition accompanied by other symptoms or are uncertain of the type of raised skin bumps you have, see your healthcare provider. Dermatologists can evaluate your skin, determine a diagnosis, and recommend further testing (if needed). In addition, meeting with a provider can ease your mind and provide you with options for treating the problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most common causes of raised skin bumps?
Raised skin bumps can occur for many different reasons, including clogged pores, allergic reactions, burns, injury, sun exposure, viruses, friction, and infections.
How long do raised skin bumps typically last?
The only way to determine how long a raised skin bump will last is to identify it. For example, a mole will stay on the skin indefinitely unless it is removed, whereas hives can last a few hours or days. Speaking with a healthcare provider will give you a more accurate answer.
When should I be concerned about raised skin bumps?
A random pimple, blister, or callus is no reason for concern. However, raised skin bumps that are accompanied by other symptoms or are growing, spreading, or not going away should be examined by a healthcare provider.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.