Armpit is the small hollow formed by the arrangement of upper arm, shoulder, chest walls and muscles. It lies on the underside of the joint of the shoulders and is the warmest part of the body. It is also known as axilla. The lymphs and blood travelling to the arms comes through the armpit. Small lumps of tissue or lymph nodes are responsible for fighting infection in the armpit. They cannot be seen or felt through the skin.
What are the causes of pain in the armpit?
Armpit is one place where pain or any other problem is the least expected. However it is one of the most sensitive of all body parts. Severe pain in the armpit can also be indicative of breast cancer but most of the times the pain is harmless and gets healed on its own. In a few cases it could be determinant of an underlying problem and should be examined by a doctor. The pain in armpit can be of different types. It can either be in the form of a lump under the arm and it could be the main reason of pain. The skin of the arm or the armpit can also get affected and cause pain. The hollow structure of the armpit itself can be a cause of pain. The main reasons can be explained as follows:
- Brachial plexus injury: A trauma that takes place due to a sudden jerk which presses the shoulder downwards and pulls the head away from the shoulder. It is common with people in sports. Neural problems can also cause pain in the armpits.
- Infections such as Lymphangitis that takes place due to severe streptococcal skin infection that further affects the ducts of lymph nodes that are placed under the arm can cause pain. Most of the times antibiotics are prescribed to deal with this condition.
- Infections such as pus in the skin or skin abscesses leads to lumps that are painful and can also affect the hair follicles. Lesions can also occur. The pus can spread and cause a lot of complications and has to be drained and treated with antibiotics till the time it dries.
- Cancer such as breast cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma can also cause lump that are painful. The lumps are usually harmless and have cysts that are blocked. It also has fat growth and extra tissue.
- Infections caused due to chickenpox or mononucleosis, can also make the area under the armpit painful.
- Other causes can be:
- Viral and bacterial infections
- Allergic reactions to food, environmental factors and cosmetic products
- Side effects of vaccinations
- Cancers such as lymphoma cancer, blood cancer
The pain in armpits occurs in men and women both. The lumps which are the most common reason of armpit pain can also occur to anyone. However among women breast cancer is another reason and so is the hormonal imbalance which makes them prone to such problems. During menstruation also the pain can be felt as the body goes through a lot of changes.
Some underlying disorders that can cause pain in the armpits are mentioned below:
- Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating
- Skin inflammation
- Contact dermatitis
- Acanthosis nigricans
- Ringworm or Tinea axillaris: A term occasionally used for ringworm affecting the armpit.
- Candidiasisor yeast infection
- Intertrigo, which usually happens on the most damp and hollow areas of the body
- Armpit boil or furuncle
- Armpit skin tagsor acrochordons
In order to detect the pain and underlying causes the doctor would examine the area closely to check if any lumps are there. It is also important to know if the pain is due to the lumps and are the lumps harmful or not. If it is harmful then it has to be removed with proper treatment. Diagnostic tests are also conducted such as blood count measure, X-ray of the chest or breast, biopsy, and allergy testing. Ultrasound, CT Scan, MRI scan etc can also be conducted.
Armpit pain treatment
Some important treatments are:
- Topical steroids: For reducing the skin inflammation, itching and irritation of the armpit
- Dissection of the lymph node: removing one or all nodes surgically
- Antiperspirants to regulate excessive sweating in the armpit
- Antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection
- Topical antifungals to treat the fungal infections of the armpit. For example Candida.
The treatment depends on the cause as well as symptoms. Different treatments differ respectively. Some can take a few days while others might take months. Also not all conditions need medical intervention. In a lot of cases the pain disappears on its own. It is only when you experience abnormal symptoms and feel cysts then you should seek medical treatment. Home remedies like warm compressing the affected area and OTC drugs can also ease the discomfort.