Groin Lump: 7 Common Causes & What to Do

May 2022

A groin lump is usually a sign of a reactive lymph node, which becomes swollen due to infection in the area. A palpable lump in the groin can also be a sign of an inguinal hernia, a boil or even cancer.  

Depending on the cause, this lump can be accompanied by other symptoms, like increased heat in the area, redness, sensitivity to touch, discharge or fever.

If you notice a groin lump, you should see your doctor for assessment of the associated lump characteristics and other symptoms. That way, a cause can be determined and appropriate treatment can be initiated. Treatment may involve the use of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or surgery. 

The main causes of groin lumps are: 

1. Inguinal hernia

An inguinal hernia is a lump that emerges in the groin area. While they can affect both men and women, they are more frequently seen in men. They occur when a part of the intestine bulges through a weakened point in the abdominal muscles. 

Generally, inguinal hernias do not cause any pain, but they can be painful when carrying heavy loads, when coughing, or when lying down. In men, the pain may radiate to the testicles. Learn more about what causes inguinal hernias and other symptoms associated with this condition.

What to do: You should see a doctor to diagnose the inguinal hernia and discuss surgical repair. The surgery involves placing the intestine back into the correct spot and reinforcing the abdominal wall. You should also perform prescribed exercises to strengthen the abdominal  muscles to prevent future hernias. 

2. Femoral hernia

A femoral hernia is a lump that appears in the thigh, close to the groin. It occurs when a part of abdominal fat and intestine bulge into the groin area. This type of hernia is more common in older women or after pregnancy, but it can also occur in people who are overweight, constipated or have chronic coughing.

Femoral hernias usually do not cause symptoms, but can cause pain with lifting or strenuous activity. In some cases, the hernia can interfere with blood flow to the intestine, causing intestinal strangulation or a bowel obstruction. These are life-threatening conditions that require immediate medical attention. 

What to do: Treatment for a femoral artery is monitored by a general surgeon, who will perform a minor procedure to repair the hernia and prevent risk of intestinal strangulation. Read more about how hernias are treated.

3. Boil

A boil is a type of skin abscess that can occur in the groin area. It is characterized by a pus-filled lump that can grow over time. They are often associated with pain, increased heat in the area, redness and sensitivity to touch. 

A boil in the groin can occur due to inflammation of a hair follicle, obstruction of a sebaceous gland or a wound in the groin area. It is often caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which can be naturally found in internal mucosas and on the skin. 

What to do: You should place a warm compress over the boil 3 times per day. You should also wash the area well with arm water and mild soap. You should never try to squeeze the boil, as it can worsen the inflammation and infection and make it harder to treat. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat infection and drain the abscess by removing the pus. Check out other ways to get rid of a boil

4. Sexually-transmitted infection

A sexually-transmitted infection, like genital herpes, chlamydia, syphilis or gonorrhea can lead  to lumps in the groin area. These lumps are reactive or swollen lymph nodes that have filled with lymph fluid. Lymph nodes are a part of the immune system and are responsible for removing viruses and bacteria to treat infections. 

Generally, a lump caused by an STI can also be accompanied by symptoms like genital discharge, itching, fever or pain and burning with urination. 

What to do: You should see your doctor for assessment to identify the type of STI you may have. This will guide the appropriate treatment, which varies depending on the type of infection.

5. Lymphadenitis

A lump in the groin can occur due to lymphadenitis, an inflammation of the lymph nodes in the groin. This swelling is usually caused by viral, fungal or bacterial infections. 

In addition, you may also notice lumps in other areas of the body, like the neck and armpits, especially with systemic infections like mononucleosis or cytomegalovirus. 

What to do: You should see your doctor to confirm a diagnosis and start treatment, which may involve the use of antibiotics or anti-inflammatories. 

6. Cancer

A lump in the groin may be due to cancer, especially lymphoma, which is a cancer that affects the lymph nodes. These lumps are usually hard, growing, and do not resolve with 2 months. 

Generally, this type of cancer will also cause symptoms like fever, night sweats, excessive fatigue and weight loss for no apparent reason. 

What to do: If you suspect cancer, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Diagnosis can be confirmed through assessment, blood work, and CT scans. Once confirmed, treatment can be started, and it may involve the use of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. 

7. Varicose vein

A varicose vein can cause a large, blue lump in the groin that disappears when lying down. This condition occurs when the vein valves are unable to open correctly, which can cause blood to accumulate within the vein. This accumulation of blood can lead to the appearance of lumps. 

Although this is a rare condition, varicose veins in the groin are more common in people who also have varicose veins in the legs or feet. Become familiar with other signs and symptoms of cancer.

What to do: Treatment for varicose veins can be completed by a vascular surgeon, who can surgically remove the damaged part of the vein.

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Edited by Tua Saude editing team in May 2022. Medical review completed by Dr. Gonzalo Ramirez - General Practitioner and Psychologist in May 2022.

References

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Medical review:
Dr. Gonzalo Ramirez
General Practitioner and Psychologist
Dr. Ramirez possesses a medical degree from the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP). He also specializes in clinical psychology.