Lumps and Bumps

Skin

I was just thinking about the amount of time we spend worrying about lumps and bumps on our skin and other surfaces, those seen and those unseen. Parents worry about rashes, boils, sties and other sundry outbreaks on their children’s skin. Teen years are spent worrying about acne, pimples, blackheads, whiteheads. Tumours, cysts and polyps occupy significant mindspace in old age. And through all our living years, moles and warts are a part of life.

What on earth are these things? Here is a quick overview.

Rashes are any area of irritated or swollen skin. They involve changes in colour, feeling or texture of the skin.  They are often itchy and painful and can appear red, purple, grey, or white.

Boils are painful, pus-filled bumps that form under the skin when bacteria infect and inflame hair follicles. They usually start out start as reddish or purplish, tender bumps. The bumps quickly fill up with pus, growing larger and more painful until they rupture and drain. If that sounds bad, a carbuncle is worse. Carbuncles are a cluster of boils that form a connected area of infection under the skin.

A stye is an  inflamed oil gland on the edge of the eyelid, where the eyelash meets the lid. It appears as a red, swollen bump that looks like a pimple, and is often tender to the touch.

And here are the ones which trouble us during adolescence.

Acne is when hair follicles under the skin become clogged. Sebum—oil that helps keep skin from drying out—and dead skin cells plug the pores. Most often, the outbreaks occur on the face but can also appear on the back, chest, and shoulders. Acne is the generic name which includes pimples, zits, etc.  

To be specific, pimples are small pustules which develop when the oil glands become clogged and infected, leading to swollen, red lesions filled with pus.

Blackheads are also a type of acne, but different from pimples. They are open bumps on the skin that fill with excess oil and dead skin. They look as if dirt is in the bump, but it is irregular light reflection off the clogged follicle that causes the dark spots.

Whiteheads too are acne and occur when oil and dead skin close off hair follicles or oil glands. But they form closed bumps on the skin.  

Moving on from teen-woes, here are lumps and bumps we worry about as we grow older:

Tumours are solid masses of tissue that form when abnormal cells group together. Tumours can affect bones, skin, tissue, organs and glands. Many of them are not cancer but they still may need treatment. 

Polyps are tissue growths that most often look like small, flat bumps or tiny mushroom-like stalks. Most polyps are small and less than half an inch wide. A polyp can be flat, raised or on a stalk. Uterine and colon polyps are the most common, but it is also possible to develop polyps in the stomach, ear canal, nose, etc.

Another type of lump is a cyst which is a small pocket of tissue filled with air, fluid or other substances. Cyst maybe caused by genetics, inflammation, infection or other issues.

And the ones that are age-agnostic:

Warts are small, noncancerous growths which appear when the skin is infected with one of the many viruses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. The virus triggers extra cell growth, which makes the outer layer of skin thick and hard in that spot.

Moles are small dark brown spots and are caused by clusters of pigment-forming cells (melanocytes). Most people have 10 to 40 moles that appear during childhood and adolescence and may change in appearance or fade over time.

That was a yucky one! But yucky is part of life!

–Meena

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