How Do You Treat an Infected Armpit Cyst?

Medically Reviewed on 11/10/2022
Infected Armpit Cyst
Armpit cysts and abscesses are typically caused by shaving or antiperspirants.

Most of the time, armpit cysts recover on their own. Usually, the cysts are harmless and do not cause any discomfort. However, when these cysts are infected, they may swell and cause severe pain.

In such cases, you can follow a few treatment methods such as:

  • Prescription medicines for pain relief
  • Antibiotics (if the cyst does not decrease or show any improvement, then intravenous antibiotics have to be started)

If the lump does not respond to any of the above treatments, your doctor may advise surgical removal of the cyst.

What are armpit cysts?

Unusual swelling or lump in the armpit may be an alarming sign, but armpit lumps are mostly harmless. Armpit lumps are swelling or bumps caused by swollen lymph nodes, infections, or cysts.

Cysts are sac-like membraneous tissue filled with fluid, air, and other substances that can develop in any body part. Most of the cysts are noncancerous.

Armpit cysts are usually harmless and recover without any treatment. However, painful infected cysts may require treatment that involves warm compression and over-the-counter pain medicines to ease the symptoms.

Sometimes your doctor may recommend surgical removal of the cysts depending on the severity of the pain.

What are the causes of armpit cysts?

Cysts and abscesses in the armpit are caused mainly by shaving or antiperspirants. Teenagers who have recently begun shaving are more likely to develop armpit cysts.

The other causes of armpit cysts include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes: Lymph nodes play an important role in the immune system. When the body fights against infection, these nodes swell. Any swelling or pain in the lymph nodes is a sign of illness. To hasten your recovery, drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of rest, or start taking medication.
  • Lipoma: A swelling in the skin due to the overgrowth of fat tissues. They mostly appear in the back, shoulders, chest, and thighs. They usually do not appear in the armpit, but if they do, there is no need to be concerned as they are harmless and do not require any treatment. In rare cases, these lipomas appear in internal organs, bones, and muscles. Lipomas feel soft and when pressed, they move slightly under the skin. Lipomas appear mostly after the age of 40.
  • Breast infection: Also known as mastitis, it is characterized by painful swelling, redness, and tenderness, which primarily affects breastfeeding mothers. Mastitis can occur in both breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding women. The lymph node swelling caused by the spread of infection forms a painful lump in the armpit. The treatment includes antibiotics. Consult your doctor for proper treatment.
  • Cancerous lumps: The cancerous lumps that cause armpit lumps are lymphomas and breast cancer.
    • Lymphomas: Are the cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system includes lymph nodes, the spleen, the thymus, and bone marrow. The lymphatic system fights against diseases. The two main types of lymphomas include Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The symptoms of lymphoma include swelling in the lymph nodes, weight loss, and fatigue. The treatment consists of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and, sometimes, stem cell transplantation.
    • Breast cancer: The axillary lymph nodes are closer to the breast. The infection spreads to axillary lymph nodes, which causes swelling of lymph nodes and forms a lump in the armpit. These lymph nodes are surgically removed during the mastectomy (surgical breast removal).


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What are the characteristic features of a cyst in the armpit and when should you worry?

Any swelling, lump, or cyst in the armpit has a few characteristic features, which include:

  • Large or small-sized lumps
  • Sometimes, they may be painful and tender, and occasionally painless
  • Soft, rubbery, or firm
  • Warm to the touch
  • Rarely visible under the skin

You should be concerned about an armpit cyst if it:

  • Grows in size
  • Is painful 
  • Appears again (recurrence) 
  • This leads to unusual weight loss

How to diagnose an armpit cyst

Armpit cysts can be diagnosed in the following ways:

  • Physical examination: The first step in diagnosing an armpit cyst. During a physical examination, the doctor will examine the size and shape of the cyst and will ask for any size changes that may have occurred.
  • Palpation: Your doctor will palpate the lump to feel its texture and consistency. The doctor may gently palpate the nearby lymph nodes too. Once a physical examination is done, based on the results, the doctor may recommend a few laboratory tests, which include:
Medically Reviewed on 11/10/2022
Image Source: iStock image,teens%20just%20beginning%20to%20shave