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Date of last update: 10/18/2017.

Forum Name: Dermatology Topics

Question: Large Underarm Bumps

 mkpp - Sun Oct 21, 2007 4:25 pm


I am a healthy 46 yo white male. I'm active and eat properly. All vital signs are excellent, I've never smoked, seldom drink and am not overweight. I'm not taking any meds.

Two months ago I began getting blisters on the 3 smallest toes on my right foot. These would itch like crazy, the blisters would weep or burst and the skin would peel. (Maybe this was athlete's foot?) I also began to experience a little jock itch. I started treating both conditions with antifungal cream and they eventually healed up.

In early August I was trying to move a large piece of furniture sideways by applying pressure with my knee. The kneecap shifted and that night I developed redness and swelling which turned into a fevered infection. This was treated with oral antibiotics (I took all the pills) and it disappeared. A couple of weeks after that, The lower tear duct in my right eye became swollen and infected, and I was able to squeeze pus from it. That went away fairly quickly on its own.

Throughout my life I have had pimples to one degree or another due to my oily skin. They were generally confined to my face until about 10-15 years ago. From that point on, they seem to travel. My face will clear up and my butt will break out. Then it will be my shoulders or back. These traveling pimples seem to camp in one general area for several months before they decide to move on. (Usually they are small and not terribly objectionable.)

About 3 weeks ago, I got a large pimple (boil, cyst, nodule, abscess) in my left armpit. It grew very large (about the size of a quarter) and was very tender. I was able to break it and squeeze puss from it for a period of time. About midway through the healing process I peeled a whitish piece off the surface that resembled a scab, but was fibrous. It was about 5 mm long.

Not long after this bump appeared, another showed up under the same arm, and then one more. Then one in my right armpit. The first 2 have disappeared. The last two became very large (3-4 cm in diameter) and would not come to a head. I anesthetized them with 5% lidocaine gel and punctured them. I have been draining them both for the last week.

The fluid is a beige color, similar to the phlegm you cough up during an infection. It has lighter colored masses in it, and sometimes has blood mixed in (probably from the area where I opened it up). I have drained a great deal of fluid from both bumps, and at times I have had to do so each hour or two due to the extreme pressure.

Last night I slept pretty well, as the swelling had gone down a little and the pain was not sharp and piercing like before. When I drained the right one this morning, a little string of puss was hanging out and it wouldn't wipe off. When I pulled on it, I was able to extract a large fibrous body about 1 cm long covered in a pea green substance. These fibers were tough, and difficult to pull apart. Once I got that out, puss gushed forth and the bump went down considerably.

At this stage, both of the remaining bumps appear to be getting smaller and are much less tender. I don't see any others coming up, either.

So my question is this. What was this all about? What are these bumps, and should I be concerned about them? Are they infected lymph nodes (the nodes in my neck did not appear to be tender or swollen), sebaceous glands or something else? And how do all of these ailments over the past 2 months relate to each other, if at all? Did I treat them properly? (I was careful to sterilize the needles, and have applied medicated ointments.)

I should also mention that I have a small tumor on the outside of my left armpit which has been there for years. It is not sore, nor has it changed in any way throughout these recent events.

 Dr. Chan Lowe - Thu Nov 08, 2007 8:18 pm

User avatar Hi Mkpp,

Your bumps in the armpits may actually be small skin abscesses. There is a bacteria known as methicillin resistant staph. aureus (MRSA) that commonly will cause these infections to spontaneously occur.

If you get more of them I would suggest you see your doctor to be tested for an infection. Sometimes antibiotics are needed to help these clear up.

Another possibility is a condition called hydradenitis suppurativa where the sweat glands of the armpits get infected. Treatment for this is usually with antibiotics if needed or surgical repair in very severe cases.

Best wishes.

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