What causes a lump under the chin?
A lump can appear anywhere in the soft area under the chin and jawline. The lump may be large, small, firm, or soft, depending on the cause. The surrounding skin may feel tight and tender, or even painful.
Anyone concerned about symptoms or unsure about the cause of a lump should see a doctor.
Symptoms and causes
Many conditions can cause a lump to form beneath the chin. Accompanying symptoms and the size and shape of the lump will likely differ, depending on the cause.
Below are common causes of a lump under the chin. Some are simple, while others require medical care to prevent complications.
Swollen lymph nodes
Swollen lymph nodes may cause a lump to the left or right of the chin.
Lymph nodes are located throughout the body, but a person can only feel those close to the skin's surface, such as the nodes in the armpits or close to the chin.
Infections can often cause lymph nodes to swell. This may lead to a noticeable lump to the left or right of the chin. The swelling is a typical response of the immune system.
A lump caused by a swollen lymph node will be soft or flexible. It may be tender to touch, but it is usually not painful. The swelling should go away within 2 to 3 weeks.
The following viral or bacterial infections often cause swollen lymph nodes:
- a cold or flu
- ear infections
- sinus infections
- measles or chickenpox
- strep throat
- an abscessed tooth
- Lyme disease
- HIV or AIDS
If an infection is to blame, the lump should disappear as the infection clears up. A trip to the doctor and antibiotics may be necessary.
Cysts. A cyst is a sac filled with fluid or debris. Cysts can form during an infection, and may slowly fill over time. Those under the jaw may be sebaceous cysts, resulting from blockages in the sebaceous glands or ducts. Damage from acne in the area can also cause cysts to form.
Fibromas. A fibroma is a round lump that can be soft or hard. They are usually found around the mouth and are not common under the chin. They usually cause no other symptoms and may signal Cowden's disease, an inherited illness that causes benign growths to form frequently.
Lipomas. Lipomas are growths of fat cells under the skin. A lipoma lump will be soft, move easily, and have no coloration. Lipomas tend to grow very slowly, are rarely cancerous, and will usually cause no other symptoms.
Various cancers may cause a lump to form under the chin, making an early diagnosis essential.
Cancers of the salivary gland, skin, or lymph nodes can cause a lump to form under the chin.
Hodgkin disease and leukemia may also lead to swollen lymph nodes.
Cancerous lumps are typically hard to the touch and may have an odd shape. There may be pain in the area if the lump is touching any nerve cells. If this continues, a person may feel partial numbness or tingling in the area.
Other symptoms of cancerous lump include:
- a mole near the lump that changes shape or color
- feeling a constant "lump in the throat"
- difficulty swallowing or breathing
- lumps in other areas near lymph nodes, such as the testicles, breasts, or armpits
- sudden weight loss
- a lump that keeps growing or changes shape
- a suddenly or persistently weakened immune system
- difficulty digesting
- vocal changes or hoarseness
- cysts that grow back rapidly after they are removed or drained
- growths that discharge pus or blood
A doctor may suggest a biopsy to determine if the lump is benign or cancerous. They may recommend surgical removal.
If the lump is cancerous, doctors may also recommend radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Treatment will vary, and a doctor will often present different options.
Other possible causes
A range of other factors can cause a lump to form under the chin. These may include:
- a bug bite or sting, especially if the skin tends to have strong reactions
- allergies to foods or products
- salivary duct stones
- keloid scars
- medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
- an injury, such as a cut or a broken bone
- damage to the sebaceous glands in the chin
When to see a doctor
Any unusual lumps on the body with no obvious cause should be assessed by a doctor.
Because of the wide range of possible causes, a professional diagnosis is essential. Unless the cause of a lump is apparent, consult a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.
Seek professional advice if cancer is suspected, or if a lump:
- continues to grow
- lasts for longer than a few weeks
- feels very hard
The sooner a person receives treatment, the better the outcome is likely to be.
A doctor may recommend antibiotics to treat any possible infections. They may also need to take a closer look at the lump and request an imaging test.
A lump under the chin is usually not a sign of a severe condition. These lumps tend to disappear on their own.
Often, they are the result of lymph nodes swelling in response to infections, such as those that cause a cold or flu.
Some conditions that cause lumps to form under the chin require medical treatment. Contact a doctor for a diagnosis.