The armpit, which is also called axilla or axillary cavity, could get affected by boils, rashes, or skin problems. Bacteria are known to thrive in the warm and moist skin folds, and people who suffer from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) are definitely more likely to develop rashes or boils in the armpits. While skin infections are often the contributing factors for pain under the armpit, various medical conditions could cause soreness in this region.
Pain in and around the armpit could be caused due to a wide range of reasons. Since the skin in the axillary cavity is quite sensitive, exposure to harsh chemicals could irritate the skin, thereby causing pain. Repetitive strain injuries could also give rise to pain under the armpit. The common causes of pain in this region include:
◘ Use of Cosmetic Products
Some people may experience symptoms such as pain, swelling, or redness in the armpit area when the skin comes in direct contact with harsh substances that may be present in certain deodorants, antiperspirants, soaps, etc. At times, the use of antiperspirants could give rise to a burning sensation. Pain, itching, redness, or inflammation in the armpit could be experienced, when a person develops an allergic reaction to any of the ingredients used in the cosmetic products.
◘ Hair Removal
Folliculitis refers to the inflammation of hair follicles. The hair follicles that are present in the armpits could get inflamed if hair removal techniques are not followed properly. Bumps could appear if a person uses a dull blade for shaving off the armpit hair. Improper hair removal could also cause ingrown hair in the armpit. There's also a risk of infection, if a clean razor is not used. Using very hot wax or pulling the hair in the wrong direction while waxing, could also damage the delicate skin of the underarm region.
◘ Boils or Cysts
An infection could occur if bacteria enter through cuts or breaks in the skin. Friction from clothes or the use of hair removal products can cause breaks in the skin, thereby allowing bacteria to enter the skin. Often, the causal organism for infection is the Staphylococcus bacterium. Skin abscesses or boils are more likely to affect those who sweat profusely. Clogging of the skin pores/sebaceous glands could also give rise to the formation of fluid-filled cysts or lumps. Rashes could also develop due to insect bites. Scratching on the affected area could also give rise to a secondary bacterial infection.
◘ Hidradenitis Suppurativa
This is an inflammatory skin condition that affects the armpits and the groin region. It may give rise to tender bumps that may enlarge and get filled with pus. The drainage of pus may be accompanied by a foul odor. At times, pea-sized lumps may form under the skin. These could even become inflamed. These lesions could be accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, formation of pus, redness, swelling, and burning sensation.
Lymph nodes are tiny bean-shaped glands that perform the important function of trapping and destroying pathogens. The axillary lymph nodes, which are the lymph nodes that are located in the armpits, may enlarge due to an injury to the arm. Axillary lymphadenitis, which refers to the inflammation of lymph nodes in the armpits, could cause symptoms such as pain, swelling, fever, etc. Pain may also be felt under the armpits if the breast tissue is affected by an infection. In some cases, the inflammation may be associated with cancer. The development of a painful lump in the armpit is one of the common signs of breast cancer.
◘ Muscle Pain
Excessive stretching of the muscles present in the armpit region could cause axillary myalgic pain. Pain may also be accompanied by tenderness in the armpit. Those who often play sports that involve forceful swinging of arms could experience pain under armpits. Subscapularis muscle strain, which commonly affects those who play tennis, baseball, or javelin, could also cause pain in the armpit.
Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections could also cause pain in the armpits. Sporotrichosis is a fungal infection that may cause painful lumps in the armpit. Viral infections such as measles, mumps, chickenpox, typhoid, shingles, and AIDS may also cause pain in this region. Bacterial infections caused by Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus could also cause pain in this region. Infectious mononucleosis, leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are other medical conditions that may cause pain in the armpit.
The treatment would vary, depending on the medical condition responsible for causing pain under the armpit. Here are some of the common treatment options and self-care measures that can be followed by affected individuals.
► Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers are often recommended for pain relief.
► Antibiotics, antiviral medicines, or antifungal drugs would be prescribed for treating bacterial, viral, or fungal infections respectively.
► Muscle relaxers would be prescribed if the muscles in the armpits are affected by a muscle strain.
► Application of a cold compress may provide relief. Take 4-5 ice cubes and wrap them in a piece of cotton cloth. Place it on the affected armpit for about 10-15 minutes. Do it thrice a day for speeding up the healing process.
► If you wish to apply a hot compress, take a cotton cloth and warm it up on a pan. Place it on the affected armpit for about 5-10 minutes. Make sure that the cloth is not too hot to touch, otherwise it may burn your skin.
► If a serious medical condition is responsible for causing pain in the armpit, extensive treatment would be required. For instance, chemotherapy and radiation therapy would be required for conditions such as leukemia, Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Those who develop boils or cysts every now and then, must consult a dermatologist. Do seek medical help if you notice a lump in the armpit. Timely treatment is essential for alleviating the symptoms and lowering the risk of complications. Recurring infections can be avoided by strengthening the immune system. This can be achieved by making lifestyle changes such as following a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.