Finding a new bump anywhere on your body can be alarming. While some lumps can be a cause for concern, lumps on the back of the neck or along the hairline are usually nothing serious. It can range from ingrown hairs to swollen lymph nodes.
Read on to learn more about possible causes and how to recognize them.
Sebaceous cysts are a common type of cyst that occurs in blocked or damaged oil glands. These glands secrete sebum, an oily substance that lubricates your skin and hair.
Sebaceous cysts feel like small, soft bumps. They are usually found on the face, neck and trunk.
In most cases, doctors can diagnose sebaceous cysts just by looking at them. However, if there is a lump, further tests such as a skin biopsy may be done.
greater than 5 cm in diameter (cm)
signs of infection such as redness, pain, and pus
grows back quickly after removal
Although sebaceous cysts are harmless, some people prefer to have them removed for cosmetic reasons. If you want to remove sebaceous cysts, talk to your doctor. They can remove it with minor surgery.
Ingrown hairs are hairs that grow back into the skin or grow under the skin due to a blocked hair follicle. This results in acne-like bumps around the hairline. They are more common in areas where hair is regularly removed by waxing, shaving, or other methods.
If you have short hair, you may experience hair growth on the back of your neck, especially below the hairline. You can have only one or more clusters.
Most ingrown hairs go away on their own without treatment. Try not to squeeze or pick at ingrown hairs to avoid infection.
Boils (also called furuncles) are purulent bumps under the skin caused by bacteria in the hair follicle. Boils can occur anywhere, but are more common in hairy areas where there is a lot of sweating and friction. This makes the back of your neck vulnerable to boils.
Symptoms of a boil include:
a painful, pea-sized red lump
redness and swelling
Increase in size in a few days
a white or yellow tip from which pus can be expelled
tenderness and warmth
When it boils a little, you can use a warm compress to help the boil. A large boil the size of a golf ball usually requires medical attention. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for more severe infections.
A lipoma is a non-cancerous, fatty lump that usually grows slowly between the skin and muscle. You can have one or more. Lipomas are more common in middle-aged people and usually do not cause health problems.
They can grow anywhere, but they tend to appear on the neck, shoulders, arms, back, abdomen, and thighs. Lipomas usually:
soft and doughy
moves easily under the skin
less than 5 cm in diameter but can grow
If they contain blood vessels or are large enough to press on nearby nerves, they are painful
A lipoma does not require treatment unless it begins to cause pain. If you think you have a lipoma, your doctor may want to do a quick biopsy to make sure it’s nothing else. They usually help remove lipomas with surgery or liposuction.
Acne keloidalis nuchae
Acne keloidalis nuchae is an inflammation of the hair follicles that causes bumps on the back of the neck and along the hairline. It starts as small, itchy bumps that eventually lead to scarring and hair loss. Over time, they turn into keloids, which are large, raised bands of scarring.
This disease is more common in men with dark skin, especially thick curly hair. Experts don’t know what causes it, but it could be related to:
constant irritation from sports equipment or the collar of a shirt
Acne keloidalis nuchae is difficult to treat. Avoid close shaves and make sure the collar of your shirt doesn’t touch your neck. You can also try washing the area with tar soap.
If keeping the area clean and friction-free doesn’t help, talk to your doctor. They may prescribe antibiotics or corticosteroids. In addition, laser hair removal or surgery can sometimes help.
Swollen posterior cervical lymph nodes
Posterior cervical lymph nodes are located behind the neck. Swollen posterior cervical lymph nodes can have several causes, but the most common cause is a viral infection, such as a cold or flu.
Other common causes of swollen lymph nodes include:
inflammation of the throat
skin sores or infections
Less common causes of swollen lymph nodes include: