Armpit pain can be caused by several factors, such as intense muscular effort, swollen lymph nodes, hidradenitis suppurativa, and, in more severe cases, lymphoma or breast cancer.
The associated symptoms and treatment depend on the cause of the pain. It can be easy to treat, if it’s a muscle injury or infection, or more difficult, if it’s cancer.
1. Swollen lymph nodes
Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit usually appear due to an infection or inflammation near the armpit area. The lymph nodes are part of the immune system and help to fight infections by attacking and destroying the germs that are carried by the lymphatic fluid.
A lump in the groin, neck, or armpit is also called adenopathy or lymph node disease, which, in most cases, represents a mild and temporary inflammation, but which can also be caused by more serious diseases, such as cancer or autoimmune diseases, when it lasts for more than 1 month or grows more than 2 cm.
What to do: treatment is generally not necessary, with rest and hydration being enough. However, it is important to identify and eliminate what is causing the inflammation and infection, as it may be necessary to take antibiotics. Analgesic or anti-inflammatory drugs, as recommended by the doctor, may also be necessary to relieve pain or tenderness in the area.
2. Muscle strain
Overexertion or injury to the chest and arm muscles as a result of activities like tennis, weight training, volleyball, or baseball, can also cause armpit pain.
What to do: an easy way to relieve this kind of pain is to get some rest and place ice on the affected area for about 15 to 20 minutes, three times a day. In addition, analgesic drugs, such as paracetamol or dipyrone, and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, can also be used to relieve pain and inflammation.
3. Breast cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer that can affect women, and although it normally doesn't cause symptoms in the early stages, the main sign that may indicate the presence of the tumor is to feel a hardened lump while palpating the armpit.
There may also be symptoms such as swelling and pain in the lumps in the armpits, possibly spreading to the arm, as well as pain, redness, or discharge from the nipples and sore breasts.
What to do: breast cancer can be cured, depending on the type and stage, so prevention through self-examination and mammography is very important.
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects lymphocytes and usually starts in the armpits, groin, neck, stomach, intestine or skin, appearing aslumps that can cause symptoms such as pain, fever, malaise, and tiredness.
What to do: treatment depends on the type of lymphoma, it's stage, the affected area, and the general condition of the patient. Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or bone marrow transplant, with Hodgkin’s lymphoma being more likely to be cured than Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and with better results when the disease is discovered and treated early.
5. Hidradenitis suppurativa
Hidradenitis suppurativa is characterized by the presence of lumps in the armpit or groin area, caused by an inflammation in the sweat glands. This disease also causes several small wounds, mainly in areas of the body that produce a lot of sweat, such as armpits, groin, anus, and buttocks.
The symptoms associated with this problem are itching, burning, and excessive sweating, as well as the affected skin areas becoming swollen, stiff, and red. These nodules can also burst, releasing pus before the skin heals.
What to do: hidradenitis has no cure, but the treatment, which is done with antibiotic creams and corticosteroid injections in the affected area, can control most of the symptoms. Drugs that control the production of hormones can also be prescribed, especially in women, and surgery to remove the area of the skin with defective glands may be necessary, in more severe cases.