What causes nodules under the skin and how to treat them?

Symptom Database

Have you ever noticed small, firm bumps under your skin? These could be nodules, a common skin condition that can occur for various reasons. Understanding what causes nodules under the skin and how to treat them is essential for maintaining good skin health. In this article, we will explore the different factors that contribute to the development of skin nodules and provide effective treatment options.

What are Nodules?

Nodules are solid, raised bumps that form beneath the skin’s surface. They are typically larger than papules and can be painful to touch. Nodules can develop in various areas of the body, including the face, neck, back, and limbs. These skin issues can be caused by a range of factors, including infections, inflammation, and underlying medical conditions.

Causes of Nodules Under the Skin

1. Acne Nodules

One of the most common causes of nodules under the skin is acne. Acne nodules are deep, inflamed lesions that occur when hair follicles become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. These nodules can be painful and may leave behind scars if not treated properly.

2. Lipomas

Lipomas are noncancerous growths that develop beneath the skin. They are composed of fat cells and often feel soft and rubbery to the touch. Lipomas can occur anywhere on the body and are usually harmless. However, if they cause discomfort or affect your appearance, they can be surgically removed.

3. Rheumatoid Nodules

Rheumatoid nodules are firm lumps that form under the skin in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. These nodules are caused by inflammation in the joints and can be a sign of more severe disease activity. Treatment for rheumatoid nodules typically involves managing the underlying arthritis with medication and lifestyle changes.

4. Dermatofibromas

Dermatofibromas are small, benign skin growths that often appear as reddish-brown nodules. They are typically painless and can develop after an injury or insect bite. While dermatofibromas do not require treatment, some individuals may choose to have them removed for cosmetic reasons.

Treatment Options for Skin Nodules

1. Topical Medications

For acne nodules, topical medications containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or retinoids can be effective in reducing inflammation and preventing further breakouts. These medications should be applied directly to the affected area as directed by a dermatologist.

2. Oral Medications

In more severe cases of acne nodules, oral medications such as antibiotics or isotretinoin may be prescribed. These medications work to reduce inflammation and control the production of oil in the skin. It is important to follow the prescribed dosage and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any oral medication.

3. Surgical Removal

If lipomas or dermatofibromas are causing discomfort or affecting your self-esteem, surgical removal may be an option. This procedure involves removing the nodule under local anesthesia. It is important to consult with a dermatologist or surgeon to determine the best course of action.

4. Lifestyle Changes

For conditions like rheumatoid nodules, making lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms. This may include regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress reduction techniques. Additionally, following the prescribed treatment plan for rheumatoid arthritis can help prevent the formation of new nodules.

Preventing Skin Nodules

While not all skin nodules can be prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Maintain a consistent skincare routine that includes cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing.
  • Avoid picking or squeezing acne lesions, as this can lead to inflammation and the formation of nodules.
  • Protect your skin from excessive sun exposure by wearing sunscreen and protective clothing.
  • Manage underlying medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, with the help of healthcare professionals.

By following these preventive measures and seeking appropriate treatment when necessary, you can minimize the occurrence of skin nodules and maintain healthy skin.


Nodules under the skin can be caused by various factors, including acne, lipomas, rheumatoid arthritis, and dermatofibromas. Understanding the underlying cause is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment. Whether it’s through topical or oral medications, surgical removal, or lifestyle changes, there are effective options available. Remember to consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. By taking care of your skin and addressing any skin issues promptly, you can maintain optimal skin health and overall well-being.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
Add a comment