Elbow lump can occur in any individual. It is a type of protrusion that may develop inside the elbow joint or on its surface. Injury on elbow is one of the most common causes for formation of lump in this region. Infection is another important reason for development of a lump like mass on elbow, besides several other reasons.
Depending on the underlying pathology, this type of lump can be asymptomatic or in some cases produce typical symptoms. Elbow lump can be painful, inflamed, red and hot. It can be a hard mass or soft and movable underneath the skin.If it is due to an infection, the skin over lump may become pitted, red and hot. It may burst leading to serous or pustular discharge.
Sometimes the lump may remain subtle without producing discomfort in movement of elbow joint. Elbow lump protruding from inside the elbow can compromise elbow movement. If you have any type of elbow lump, seek immediate treatment even if it does not interfere with movement of the joint.
What Are The Causes Of Lump On Elbow?
- There are numerous causes for a lump to develop inside or on the top of elbow joint. The most common and frequent reason is formation of hematoma due to an injury or a blow over elbow. Hematoma is collection of clotted blood. Pyogenic skin infection over the elbow can develop into a lump. The microorganism responsible for it is usually staphylococcus bacteria. It may enter in the skin and subcutaneous tissue after an injury or a scratch or abrasion.
- Elbow bursitis can result in a lump. It is a common orthopedic problem. Inflammation of bursa is known as bursitis. A bursa is a sac present in any joint, including elbow. This tiny sac is filled with fluid which acts as a cushion between the bone and tissues present in elbow. It prevents friction between the two. A bursa can become swollen and form into a lump after an infection or injury. The injury may be as minor as lifting a heavy object. Elbow bursitis can also develop due to gouty arthritis. Usually a lump of elbow bursitis develops on the posterior aspect of elbow.
- Sebaceous cyst is another important differentiating cause of elbow lump. Sebaceous cyst is a non cancerous lump beneath the skin. It is slow growing mass and often painless. There is a small round bump on the elbow under the skin. There is a visible blackhead at the center of cyst. If the cyst in infected and inflamed it becomes sore and tender. It may rupture and release thick pus like material which has foul smell.
- A lipoma can grow on the elbow. It is a benign tumor. It develops into a lump which is soft to feel. Lipoma is composed of fatty tissue. Over a period of time it may enlarge in size and affect elbow movement.
- Fracture or dislocation of bones in elbow can result into a lump. There is specific history of fall or blow on the elbow area. The swelling can develop spontaneously after the fracture. Pain and difficulty in moving the elbow are two major symptoms besides laceration and cuts on skin over elbow.
Treatment Options For Lump On Elbow
Treatment of elbow lump depends on the underlying cause. If it is caused due to an infection, anti inflammatory and antibiotics are the main line treatment. A course of antibiotics will help to cure the infection, pain and swelling.
If the lump is due to an injury, applying cold fomentation over the area will help to reduce the size of lump. Apply it soon after an injury. It will help to shrink the blood vessels and thus less bleeding will occur. Anti inflammatory medications for few days may resolve the hematoma most cases.
In case of a sebaceous cyst the best option is to remove it surgically. However, some sebaceous cyst remains small for long period and they are painless. In such situation simply observe it, and if grows or becomes infected you can consult your doctor.
Diagnosis of bursa may be done with the help of X-ray and MRI. The preliminary treatment consists of anti inflammatory drugs and antibiotics. However, if there are recurrent episodes or if it hampers elbow movement, your doctor may suggest surgery.