What is that on your skin?
Skin is your body’s largest organ. It is designed to protect you, but sometimes you have to wonder – what is that thing growing on it?
There are many types of raised skin bumps or growths, they often are harmless and don’t require medical treatment unless they cause discomfort or become infected. Here are some examples.
Does your skin have tiny white bumps? No need to be alarmed, but don’t try to remove these. It’s likely milia, which half of all babies develop, and adults can get, too. When dead skin cells get trapped under the skin’s surface, they can form small, hard cysts, called milia. It’s most common on the face around the nose, chin or cheeks, but can occur on other areas of the body, as well.
“Milia can sometimes form due to applying too much moisturizer or thicker topical products on the face, which may clog the pores and lead to the development of milia,” says Dr.Vivek Iyengar, a dermatologist affiliated with Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill.
These are common growths that can form pretty much anywhere on the body. When blood vessels clump together, they create a raised, bright-red bump under or on the skin. These small, circular, brightly colored bumps can be raised or smooth and may bleed if irritated.
“Cherry angiomas are more common in people over 30,” says Dr. Iyengar. “They may need to be removed if they bleed or cause discomfort, but are generally harmless.”
These small bumps that occur around hair follicles can be slightly red and feel rough. The opposite age issue of cherry angiomas, keratosis pilaris often clears up without treatment by the age of 30.
“This is a common skin condition caused by an overgrowth of a protein called keratin that is often seen on the backs of arms and legs, but can occur elsewhere, including the face and buttocks,” says Dr. Iyengar.
These round, rough and raised dark-colored growths are something else that older individuals may encounter. They can be skin-colored, brown or black.
Dr. Iyengar says these spots often have a “stuck-on appearance” and can occur many places, typically the chest, shoulders or back, but not on the palms of hands or soles of feet. They are harmless lesions, although they may become irritated, itchy and inflamed in some patients. “These are easily removed by various methods, depending on the individual situation, during a routine office visit.”
Another skin condition that may be caused by infected hair follicles or oil glands, boils have the appearance of red, raised bumps.
Dr. Iyengar says that these are most common on the face, neck, armpit and buttocks. “Boils can be painful and may have a yellow or fluid-filled center. They could be from an underlying cyst or could be from a localized infection requiring antibiotics.”
Caused by friction, contact dermatitis (caused by an allergic reaction), chickenpox and other skin disorders, bullae are clear, watery, blisters filled with fluid that are greater than 1 cm.
“With bullae, if you notice a milky liquid, there may be an infection, so check with your dermatologist,” says Dr. Iyengar.
Another skin issue that is most likely caused by friction, skin tags are flaps of skin the same color as your skin or a bit darker, and can grow up to a half an inch long.
Dr. Iyengar says these are most common near the neck, armpits, breast, groin, stomach and eyelids.
These are formed from a collection of fatty tissue under the skin and usually arise on the neck, back or shoulder. They are usually small, located just under the skin and are pale or colorless.
“Lipomas are soft to the touch and sometimes may produce pain or discomfort when pushed or touched,” says Dr. Iyengar.
These are slow-growing under-the-skin growths that contain fluid, air or other substances. Cysts grow in various sizes in any part of the body. They feel like a ball and usually can move around slightly.
“While typically painless, cysts can become a problem if they become infected or grow in sensitive areas,” says Dr. Iyengar.
If you notice any changes that do cause discomfort or concern, don’t hesitate to reach out to your primary care doctor or dermatologist.
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”