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Inflamed armpits: causes and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

For hygiene and aesthetics, we are very aware of our armpits, the junction area that is located between the shoulder and the arm and that also contains the axillary artery and its branches, the axillary vein and its tributaries, part of the brachial plexus, five groups of lymph nodes, nerves, axillary fat and part of the areolar tissue.

Some irregularities in the armpits indicate that something is not quite right in the body. The swelling in the armpits may be due to various causes, from simple as a swollen lymph node to severe causes such as lymphoma or breast cancer.

Treating each condition will depend on the related cause and the individual specialized assessment. If you want to know how we invite you to continue reading this FastlyHealarticle about inflamed armpits: causes and treatment.

Swollen armpit glands

The most common cause for which we can find swollen armpits is a swollen lymph node or what is medically known as axillary lymph node enlargement. Let us remember that at least five groups of axillary lymph nodes and their respective lymphatics converge in the armpits.

The primary function of the lymph nodes is to act as part of the immune system to fight possible infections that afflict the body. Therefore, the inflammation in the armpits produced by the lymph nodes occurs after exposure to viruses or bacteria, acting as filters for the causative agent. At this time, the lymph nodes are enlarged and can be easily touched.

In addition to the swollen armpit, tenderness and pain may also appear in this area, which may be more or less intense depending on the size of the lymph node. Depending on the severity of the infectious process, a fever may appear.

Usually, swollen axillary lymph nodes are related to causes such as:

  • Viral infection such as a cold.
  • Pharyngitis.
  • Tonsillitis.
  • Ear infections
  • Dental infections
  • Skin infections
  • Mononucleosis.
  • HIV.
  • Rubella.
  • Syphilis.
  • Tuberculosis.
  • Salmonellosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus.
  • Lymphoma

In some way, the inflammation of the armpit is a warning sign of some situation that could be afflicting the body.

The specialist doctor is in charge of carrying out the proper assessment and indicating the appropriate treatment.

Boil in the armpit

Hidradenitis suppurativa in the armpit, swallow, or furuncle refers to an inflammatory and infectious process in the hair follicle or the sebaceous gland, generally related to cystic armpit hair.

As the days go by, pus accumulated inside the boil may appear, reddening the area and developing a kind of lump or protrusion and, therefore, causing inflammation.

Axillary inflammation results from obstruction of the ducts that excrete sweat, with humidity and heat being an environment conducive to bacterial growth. A series of symptoms are manifested, such as:

  1. Pain in the armpit can spread to the whole arm.
  2. Pain that increases when pressing the boil.
  3. Intense sweating
  4. Limitation of arm mobilization.
  5. The boil can initiate changes concerning color and size and can even reach 5 cm.
  6. Purulent suppuration may appear through the boil.
  7. Some unique characteristic of a deep boil or abscess is that several fistulas can appear in different phases of suppuration and remission, manifesting with intense pain.

The common causes of axillary hidradenitis are:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Inadequate hygiene.
  • Use of some deodorants.
  • Use of tight clothing.
  • Use of fiber clothing.
  • After waxing.
  • Obesity.
  • Mellitus diabetes.

Depending on the severity of the hidradenitis, the doctor will indicate the best appropriate treatment for the cure of this condition. See Furuncle’s article in the armpit for more information: causes and home remedies.

Inflamed armpits: other causes

Other possible causes of swollen armpits are:

Sebaceous cyst

A sebaceous cyst is an inflammation of the hair follicle or a skin trauma caused by waxing or shaving.

After this, a bag with sebaceous content is formed. This is nothing more than a greasy and viscous substance that contains keratin and is present in the hair, skin, and nails.

The difference between the sebaceous cyst and the other conditions is that the former is painless, its size can be variable, and easily movable under the skin when pressed.

The sebaceous cyst is also likely to enlarge, become infected, and become painful. At this point, the skin becomes red, inflamed even more, and an abscess with purulent contents may form that can begin to ooze at any time.


Cancer is one of the severe causes for which an inflamed armpit may be evident at first.

Hodgkin’s lymphomanon – Hodgkin lymphoma, and lymphocytic leukemia can cause lymph node inflammation. All of them are part of the cancers that originate in B lymphocytes, which are responsible for protecting the body from any foreign agent by producing what are called antibodies.

In addition to the typical axillary inflammation, other symptoms may manifest, such as:

  • Fever.
  • Insomnia.
  • Weightloss.
  • Profuse night sweats.
  • Fatigue.
  • General discomfort.

Approximately 71,000 people are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the United States each year, and the incidence of the disease is on the rise, doubling since 1970, with a steady increase of 1 to 2% per year. These increases have been observed predominantly to a high degree and are potentially curable, according to the Revista de Hematología México 2018 [1].

Breast cancer

Finally, breast cancer, which affects mainly women and men, is usually asymptomatic in its first stage. Consequently, a nodule or hardened tumor appears in the breast or the armpit.

Other symptoms may also appear, such as:

  1. Pain in the armpits
  2. Inflamed armpit.
  3. Redness in the area.
  4. Discharge through the nipples
  5. Pain in the breasts

Inflamed armpits: treatment

The treatment will depend on the proper medical evaluation and the identification of the cause to be treated.

In the first instance, general measures can be applied to calm the symptoms associated with inflammation of the armpit:

  • The warm compresses applied directly in the axillary region can soothe inflammation and pain and allow drainage in a given case involving sebaceous cyst inflammation.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used to improve symptoms.

On the other hand, and in an individualized way, the swollen lymph nodes product of a viral process can return to normal once this condition subsides.

The inflammation of the lymph nodes caused by a bacterial infection will require antibiotics. The type of these will depend on the condition to be treated.

The other conditions related to inflammation of the lymph nodes will receive specific treatment for each. This applies to HIV, autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Axillary lymph nodes inflamed by cancer such as Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lymphocytic leukemia will be treated individually according to the type of cancer. This can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery sessions.

In case the inflammation of the armpit is caused by a boil, the abscess can be drained through an incision made by the specialist and, later, the administration of oral antibiotic therapy. Unfortunately, hidradenitis suppurativa is often recurrent.

The sebaceous cyst can drain through warm water compresses in the axillary region, the drainage through a surgical procedure performed by the specialist. Consequently, it will improve after administering antibiotics for seven days after surgery.

Finally, breast cancer treated early can remit depending on the type and stage it is in.

Inflamed armpits have several related causes but are adequately treated, they can heal without significant complications, and routine preventive medical evaluation is also necessary.

This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor if you present any condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Inflamed armpits: causes and treatment, we recommend that you enter our Immune system category.

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