The groin is the area of the pelvis where the genitals are located. It extends up from there to the hip. There are many potential causes of a lump in this area. Some are relatively benign, while others can be much more serious.

The groin contains numerous muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves. As a result, a lump in this area can lead to discomfort and reduced mobility.

This article discusses the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of lumps in the groin. It also provides tips for preventing lumps in this part of the body.

a man talking to a doctor about his lump in groinShare on Pinterest
If a person notices a lump in the groin, they should talk to their doctor.

There are several possible causes of a lump in the groin. The following sections outline some of these in more detail.

Cysts

Cysts are noncancerous growths that develop under the skin. They are usually harmless.

However, squeezing or popping a cyst can lead to an infection. If the cyst ruptures beneath the skin, its contents can infect surrounding healthy tissue.

An infected cyst may appear flushed and swollen and may be tender or warm to the touch.

There are two types of cyst that can develop in or near the groin: epidermoid cysts and sebaceous cysts. Although both types look similar, they each cause different symptoms.

Epidermoid cysts

An epidermoid cyst is a movable nodule that sits just below a layer of healthy skin. These cysts contain a white substance composed of the protein keratin, which exists in the skin, hair, and nails.

Epidermoid cysts are one of the most common types of benign skin growth. According to one 2020 article, males are two times more likely to develop these cysts than females.

Sebaceous cysts

Sebaceous cysts can develop inside a clogged hair follicle or sweat gland. Unlike epidermoid cysts, sebaceous cysts contain a yellow, oil-like substance.

Swollen lymph nodes

Lymph nodes are small glands that make up part of the immune system. Their role is to remove viruses, bacteria, and toxins from lymphatic fluid. This fluid helps nourish the body’s cells and carry away wastes. It also contains white blood cells called lymphocytes, which help fight off infection.

A person who has an infection or other illness may experience swelling in one or more lymph nodes. The lymph nodes most prone to swelling are located in the following parts of the body:

  • the armpits
  • the areas on either side of the neck
  • the groin

Causes of swollen lymph nodes in the groin

Some possible causes of swollen lymph nodes in the groin include:

  • Vaginal yeast infections: These infections are due to an overgrowth of the Candida fungus inside the vagina. According to the Office on Women’s Health, around 75% of females will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime.
  • Bacterial vaginosis: This is another common infection that occurs when too much of a certain bacterium grows inside the vagina. Females of any age can develop bacterial vaginosis. It is the most common vaginal condition among those aged 15–44.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs): These are infections that can affect any part of the urinary tract, which consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. UTIs are more common in females. This is because the female urethra is shorter than that of males, allowing bacteria to travel up the urinary tract more easily.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): The term STI refers to any bacterial, fungal, or viral infection that spreads between people through sexual contact.
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma: Less commonly, a swollen lymph node in the groin may be a symptom of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This is a type of cancer that begins in the lymphocytes.
  • Cancer of the reproductive organs or other organs in the area: Certain cancers can also lead to swollen lymph nodes.

Hernia

A hernia is the medical term for when tissue or an organ pushes through an opening in the muscle that surrounds it. Two types of hernia can occur near the groin: inguinal hernias and femoral hernias.

The symptoms of inguinal and femoral hernias are similar and may include:

  • a bulge in the area between the lower abdomen and the top of the thigh
  • a bump in the inner thigh
  • a lump in the scrotum
  • discomfort or pain in the groin that typically worsens with movement
  • abdominal bloating or pain
  • nausea or vomiting

Inguinal hernias

An inguinal hernia occurs when fatty tissue or part of the small intestine bulges through a weakened muscle in the lower abdominal wall.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, males are eight to 10 times more likely to develop inguinal hernias than females.

Femoral hernias

A femoral hernia occurs when fatty tissue or part of an abdominal organ pushes through a weak spot in a muscle near the inner thigh.

Enlarged blood vessels

There are two types of enlarged blood vessel that can present as a lump in the groin: femoral aneurysms and varicose veins.

Femoral aneurysms

The femoral artery runs from the top of each thigh down each leg. A femoral aneurysm is the medical term for swelling of the femoral artery due to a weakness in the artery wall.

The condition can present as a pulsating lump in the groin. Some other potential symptoms of a femoral aneurysm include:

  • cramping in the groin
  • numbness in the groin
  • pain that radiates down one leg

According to a 2020 article, femoral aneurysms most often affect males aged 70 or older.

Varicose veins

Varicose veins are swollen or twisted veins that occur when the blood pressure inside a vein increases. Varicose veins usually occur in the legs and thighs.

Symptoms of varicose veins include:

  • veins that noticeably bulge from beneath the skin
  • swelling in the legs and feet
  • heaviness or pain in the legs and feet

The following factors can increase a person’s risk of developing varicose veins:

  • being older
  • standing for long periods
  • having excess body weight or obesity
  • being pregnant and giving birth

People should seek medical care as soon as possible if they notice a new lump in or near their groin.

Although some groin lumps can resolve without treatment, others can lead to severe or even life threatening complications.

The list below outlines some possible causes of groin lumps and their associated complications:

  • Cysts: A ruptured cyst can lead to bleeding, infection, and scarring.
  • Hernias: Without treatment, a hernia can become permanently stuck outside of its muscle wall. Some hernias can also lead to a bowel obstruction without treatment.
  • Swollen blood vessels: A swollen blood vessel could rupture, causing internal bleeding. An untreated femoral aneurysm may progress into a more severe condition, such as a blood clot or atherosclerosis.
  • Inflamed lymph nodes: Swollen, tender lymph nodes indicate inflammation and can be due to infections, injury, or even cancer in the surrounding region.

People should also seek medical attention if they experience any of the following symptoms of infection:

  • a new or unusual growth or lump, even without other symptoms
  • flushed skin, swelling, or warmth near the lump
  • pain or tenderness in the lump or surrounding area
  • yellow or green drainage
  • fever or chills
  • nausea or vomiting

During the initial consultation, a doctor will ask about the person’s symptoms and review their medical history. They may also ask whether or not the person has a family history of hernias, cardiovascular disease, or any other condition that could contribute to a lump in the groin.

In addition, they will likely perform a physical examination. This may involve the following:

  • inspecting and palpating the groin area
  • examining any lumps for symptoms of infection, such as tenderness, flushed skin, or swelling
  • taking the person’s blood pressure
  • taking their temperature
  • assessing their weight or body mass index (BMI)

Diagnostic tools

The doctor may use one or more of the following tests to help diagnose a lump in the groin:

  • Ultrasound imaging: This is a medical imaging technique that can reveal whether a lump contains fluid or tissue cells.
  • CT scans and MRI scans: These are medical imaging techniques that create detailed images of structures inside the body, such as organs and blood vessels.
  • Blood and urine analysis: These tests can help identify infections.
  • Biopsy: This is a medical procedure that involves collecting a tissue sample for laboratory analysis.
  • Cell culture: This is a medical procedure that involves collecting a sample of pus or drainage for laboratory analysis.

The treatment for a lump in the groin depends on its underlying cause. The list below outlines some potential causes and their associated treatment options:

  • Cysts: A cyst may resolve without treatment. However, a painful cyst may require drainage using a hollow needle or an incision to allow the fluid to drain out. In some cases, a doctor may recommend removing the cyst surgically.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: If the lymph nodes are swollen due to a bacterial infection, a doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics.
  • Inguinal hernia: In some cases, a doctor may be able to successfully massage an inguinal hernia back into place. In other cases, they may recommend surgery to push the hernia back into place and repair the weaknesses in the abdominal wall. This may be necessary if the hernia causes severe or persistent symptoms.
  • Femoral hernia: Surgery is typically necessary for a femoral hernia that causes symptoms, becomes enlarged, or becomes stuck in the femoral canal. A doctor may recommend either open surgery or laparoscopy.
  • Femoral aneurysm: A doctor may recommend surgery to treat a femoral aneurysm. During the procedure, a surgeon will repair any weakened or ruptured blood vessels. They may also insert a graft to seal off the aneurysm and prevent the artery from tearing.
  • Varicose veins: A person may seek treatment for varicose veins that cause pain, discomfort, or cosmetic concern. Treatment may involve exercising regularly and wearing compression stockings to boost circulation. If these treatments are not effective, however, a doctor may recommend one of the following procedures:
    • Endothermal ablation: This uses heat to seal off varicose veins.
    • Sclerotherapy: This uses injectable medications to shrink varicose veins.
    • Ligation: This involves surgically removing the varicose veins.

In most cases, a lump in the groin is either a cyst, a hernia, or a swollen lymph node.

Cysts often resolve on their own and rarely lead to additional complications. Swollen lymph nodes typically indicate an infection, and the lump will usually disappear once the infection clears up.

A groin lump that develops as a result of an enlarged blood vessel may not require medical intervention. Depending on the severity of a person’s symptoms, a doctor may recommend that the person makes some dietary and lifestyle changes while continuing to monitor the lump.

Similarly, hernias do not always require medical treatment. In some cases, a doctor can massage the hernia back into place.

Occasionally, lumps in the groin can indicate that cancer is developing in the surrounding region.

Doctors will closely monitor all causes of lumps in the groin, as these conditions have the potential to cause serious and even life threatening complications.

It is not always possible to prevent lumps from developing in or near the groin. However, certain types of lump are more preventable than others.

For example, people can help prevent cysts and infections by practicing proper personal hygiene. This means washing regularly and keeping the groin area dry, especially following physical activity.

Avoiding STIs is one way to prevent swollen lymph nodes. People can prevent STIs by using condoms during sex and limiting their number of sexual partners.

Eating a healthful diet and getting regular exercise can help reduce the risk of developing enlarged blood vessels in the groin and elsewhere. Maintaining a moderate weight will also help reduce the risk of developing a hernia.

There are several potential causes of a lump in or near the groin. Cysts and swollen lymph nodes are common causes. Other potential causes include hernias and enlarged blood vessels.

A person should contact their doctor if they develop a lump in their groin. They should seek immediate medical attention if the lump gets larger or shows any symptoms of infection, such as flushed skin, swelling, or tenderness.

Some lumps will resolve without medical treatment. However, femoral aneurysms and hernias may sometimes require surgery.