Lumps under the chin (also known as chin lumps) are quite a common occurrence that most people don’t pay attention to. Chin lumps are said to occur when there is a bulge, mass, lump or swelling that suddenly appears under your chin, your jawline or just close to your neck.
At times, this mass can be mistaken for goitre (which occurs when there is a swelling around the thyroid glands); however, their causes and treatments are not the same. Sometimes, it is possible for a person to experience the sudden development of more than one lump around this region.
Generally, chin lumps are harmless and can resolve themselves; however, in most cases, there may be an underlying cause of the development of these lumps. Most times, these swelling are often due to an enlargement of the lymphatic nodules around these areas which are usually caused by an infection.
Although infections are the major causes of the enlargement of the lymph nodes, however, cysts, cancers, benign tumours, abscesses, and so on can also be seen as a cause of these swellings.
If you have a lump under the chin, you may feel something like a boil or an abscess. These boils or abscesses can either feel as though they are hard or soft, painful or tender to touch.
In some cases, these lumps don’t come with pain, and as a result, they may be present for an extended period without you noticing their presence.
Causes of Lumps under the chin
There are several causes of chin lumps; however, they can be categorized into the following groups;
When we talk about infections, what comes to mind is the presence of a particular microorganism as the causative agent for this swelling. This microorganism can either be of the bacterial or viral family. Once an infection is present in any area under your chin, your lymphatic nodules are immediately affected and as such, causing a swelling.
Your lymph nodes are an essential part of your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is what is responsible for fighting foreign substances and protecting your body from sicknesses. Numerous lymph nodes are scattered all around the body.
The majority of your lymph nodes are found within your head and neck region(including the chin and under the jaw). These lymph nodes are either round or bean-shaped; however, they are mostly small and very flexible.
It is not a common experience for your lymph nodes to swell especially those found in the head and neck regions of the body. As such, when they become inflamed, it can serve as a sign that there is an underlying problem somewhere.
Whenever your lymph nodes are swollen, they form the shape of a pea or an olive. For you to know your lymph nodes are swollen, it gets challenging to chew or turn your head in a particular direction.
There are many bacterial infections that can result in the inflammation of your lymph nodes. They include:
- Infections such as the flu or cold that affect mainly the upper respiratory tract.
- Ear infections
- Sinus infections
- Sinus blockages
- Strep throat
- Mouth infection or an abscess in the tooth that becomes infected
- Kissing disease popularly called mononucleosis or mono(for short)
- Cellulitis and other skin infections
Just as there are different bacterial infections that can result in lumps under the chin, there are also viral infections that can get into chin lumps. Some of such viral infections include HIV and Tuberculosis.
There are certain diseases that tend to attack the immune system. These diseases are mostly autoimmune (which means that the immune system of the body is attacking the body), and as such causing the lymphatic nodules (which are a part of the body’s immune system) to become inflamed.
Cancer occurs when the healthy cells of the body begin to grow and develop abnormally. Although cancer can occur at any stage in a person’s life, however, older people are more likely to develop cancers.
There are numerous ways by which cancers can cause your chin to develop lumps. They include:
- When cancer begins to affect any organ that is close to the chin such as the mouth, the throat, the thyroid gland or even your salivary glands, it can cause the lymph nodes present in your chin to swell as such resulting in lumps under the chin.
- When cancer from a distant organ travels and start to spread around the body through the lymph nodes, it can cause these lymph nodes including those found under the chin to begin to swell, as such causing the formation of lumps under the chin.
- When a patient has lymphoma, it can spread to the lymph nodes under the chin forming lumps under the chin. Lymphomas are a special type of cancer that affects the lymph nodes itself.
- When a patient has skin cancers also known as melanomas, it can appear as a lump under the chin.
- When a patient has sarcoma, it can lead to the formation of chin lumps.
- Other types of cancers, such as leukaemia can cause the lymph nodes to swell, leading to chin lumps.
Cysts and Benign tumours
When there is a growth on a person’s body, the growth can either cancerous or non-cancerous. Non-cancerous growths are usually cysts and benign tumours. Benign tumours are said to occur when a particular set of cells start to divide at an abnormally fast pace.
The difference between malignant(cancerous) and benign(non-cancerous) tumours is that malignant tumours can spread rapidly, affecting the other cells of the body. In contrast, benign tumours can’t spread across the different parts of the body.
Example of cysts and benign tumours that can cause the formation of lumps under the chin include:
- Epidermoid also called sebaceous cysts
If the lumps under the chin are as a result of cysts or benign tumours, then the lumps may appear to be very soft. Generally, most cysts are not painful. However, they tend to cause some discomfort.
This is because, as they grow, they tend to press on other structures that are in close proximity and as such cause discomfort and swellings.
Lumps under the chin can also be as a result of injuries. These injuries may be minor, severe, or as a result of internal trauma.
Some of the damages that can result in the development of a localized lump include:
- Broken bones
- A fractured jaw
- Insect bites and stings
- Bite injuries
- Hematoma(collections of blood under the tissues)
Asides the causes that have been listed above, some other health conditions can cause the developments of lumps under the chin. They include;
- Stones in the salivary duct
- Presence of an enlarged thyroid gland(goitre)
- Allergies to certain types of foods such as peanut and so on
Symptoms of Lumps under the Chin
The symptoms of chin lumps are usually based on the causes.
Chin lumps caused by cancer
Once you have lumps that are caused by cancer, you will experience certain symptoms such as;
- Sores or injuries that are difficult to heal
- Changes in bowel activity
- Presence of lumps in other places of the body
- Intense difficulties in swallowing
- Unexplainable bleeding or discharges
- The appearance of moles, warts, and mouth sores. These sores usually may present with changes in colour, sizes and shapes.
- Incessant coughs
- Sudden and unexplainable Weight loss
- Recurring infections
- Voice changes.
Lumps that are caused as a result of infection will cause the following symptoms;
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Discharge or pus
- Redness, swelling and warmth
- Pain and tenderness
- Weight loss
In some cases, a chin lump can occur alongside with some life-threatening symptoms. Some of these signs may include:
- Difficulties in concentrating
- Difficulties in maintaining consciousness; such a person may pass out or become unresponsive
- Fluctuating levels of mental health
- Sudden behavioural changes such as delirium, lethargy, confusion, and delusions.
- Uncontrollable heavy bleeding (haemorrhage).
Once this occurs, it is important to consult your doctor.
Since lumps under the chin mostly have an underlying condition that causes it, treatment of these conditions will effectively resolve these lumps.
If the initial causes of a lump under the chin is not properly treated, it can result in a complication. For example, some lumps are as an indication that a person has cancer.
Once these lumps are not treated, it can lead to certain life-threatening conditions depending on the stage the cancer is and how far it has spread.
As such, some of the life-threatening complications include:
- Sepsis (life-threatening blood infection often as a result of bacteria)
- Spread of cancer
In conclusion, lumps under the chin are usually as a result of an underlying cause. Once these causes are treated, these lumps can easily resolve themselves.