The jawbone is located under the chin. A lump can appear anywhere on the jaw lining, under the chin and sometimes on the neck. You can have more than one lump under the jawbone. The lump may be painful, hard, soft, painless or in form of a sore.
In most cases, lumps under the jawbone are swollen lymph nodes. Viral and bacterial infections can also lead to formation of such lumps. Painless lumps are in most benign tumors. A malignant tumor can also develop under the jawbone.
It is always a good idea to know the exact cause of a lump under your jawbone. Ignoring such a lump can have dire consequences in the long run. This article discusses the common causes of lumps under the jawbone (jaw line, under the chin and on the front part of neck).
Painful lump under jawbone; swollen lymph nodes
Swollen lymph nodes are perhaps the most common causes of a lump under the jawbone. Lymph nodes occur throughout the body. Larger groupings are located under the jaw and on either side of the neck. These lymph nodes will swell due to an infection or a disease such as sore throat. In times of very severe infections or illnesses, lymph nodes will form very firm but tender lumps under jaw. The lumps will always be painful.
The sole cause of swollen lymph nodes is presence of disease causing organisms or germs in the blood. This is because lymph nodes serve the task of filtering harmful microorganisms from blood. Under jawbone, lymph nodes may swell due to an infection in the mouth such as an abscess tooth or strep throat. Swelling can also occur due to serious diseases such as HIV, cancer or measles.
Swollen lymph nodes are characterized by appearance of a firm, tender painful lump under the jawbone. In most cases, swelling will occur under both jawbones.
Note that you will only have swollen lymph nodes when fighting another form of disease or infection. For this reason, other symptoms such as fever, fatigue, nausea and headaches may occur. If other lymph nodes are to swell, it is a symptom of serious infection or disease such as cancer of the lymphatic system.
Swelling of lymph nodes will resolve once the infection or disease causing it is treated. You can try a cold compress treatment to ease pain and reduce swelling.
Firm lump under jawbone; sebaceous cysts
Sebaceous cysts are common on the face and neck. On the face, they can develop under the jawbone. They are harmless but can cause some discomfort.
Sebaceous cysts get their name from the fact that they form out of sebaceous glands. These glands are located under the skin and are responsible for production of sebum. Sebum is the oil that keeps your skin hydrated. The oil is secreted through hair follicles. Sometimes, hair follicles can get blocked or damaged, thus trapping sebum in the ducts. As more sebum is secreted, it accumulates to form a sac-like structure under the skin filled with fluid. Invasion by bacteria may occur, which results in pus formation.
Note that a sebaceous cyst is slightly different from an epidermoid cyst. The latter forms when epidermal skin cells move deeper into skin rather than slough off. Since sebaceous glands occur throughout the body under skin, it is possible to have a hard lump on the labia due to a sebaceous cyst.
Most sebaceous cysts are painless. Large or infected ones can be painful. To the touch, sebaceous cysts are firm but soft. This is the main difference between these and malignant tumors.
Cysts are not harmful. If need be, they can be removed surgically in a clinic. Your doctor may also choose to drain them or inject with corticosteroids. Cysts that haven’t been surgically removed tend to recur. This is commonly seen in a hard lump behind the knee caused by a ganglion cyst.
Soft, movable lump under jawbone; benign tumors
Another common cause of lumps under the jawbone is benign tumors, lipoma in most cases. Fibromas are also common but are more likely to cause a lump on the bicep under the skin than under the jawbone.
Lipomas are basically fat tumors. They are very harmless and can occur anywhere in the body. You can for example get a pea sized lump in the anus due to lipoma. Interestingly, their exact cause is unknown.
Lipoma forms a soft, tender, rubbery and movable lump under the skin. Large ones can measure about an inch in diameter.
Lipomas do not grow overnight. In fact, they can grow slowly over months or even years. It is for this reason that lipomas can sometimes be taken for malignant tumors.
The fact that lipomas are harmless means that medical treatment is not always necessary. However, they can be of some form of discomfort or cosmetic concern.
Marginal excision is the main treatment option for lipomas. It involves making a small incision and removing the fat nodules. Marginal excision is very effective. Several tests may be required to confirm if a lump under skin is actually a lipoma or not.
Hard lump under jawbone; cancer
A hard lump under the jawbone can also be a cancerous lump. Cancers of lymphatic system, thyroid, mouth or throat can result in formation of such a lump. As mentioned earlier, you have a large grouping or lymph nodes under your chin. Cancer cells can originate from another body organ and spread to these lymph nodes through the lymphatic system.
Skin cancer cells may also start on or near the jawbone. There are different types of skin cancer. Most tend to occur on sun-exposed skin regions such as the face.
As cancer lumps and cells advance, lymph nodes in different locations may swell. This is very common in lymphoma and leukemia patients.
Common symptoms of cancer include:
- Painless, hard, firm lump
- Lump in throat feeling when swallowing
- Sores that take long to heal
- Unintended weight loss
- Voice hoarseness
- Chronic or nagging cough
- Evolving moles
- Compromised immunity
- Oral sores
- Loss of appetite, changes in bowel movements and indigestion
- Lumps occurring elsewhere in the body
Other causes of lump under jawbone
- Boils and abscess – boils are painful bumps that form in a gland or a hair follicle. They start as red bumps and gradually fill with pus. Large boils are known as abscesses. An abscess can also occur due to skin damage.
- Salivary duct stones – it is a condition that occurs when minerals crystallize in salivary ducts. These are tubes that deliver saliva into mouth from salivary glands.
- Hematoma – a hematoma occurs when blood clots outside a blood vessel, mostly after an injury.
- Injury – it is common for a lump to form during recovery from an injury. Injuries can occur on the skin or on jawbone itself.
- Cystic acne – cystic acne occurs when acne gets infected with bacteria. This leads to formation of soft, tender, red bump filled with pus. Cystic acne is often painful.
- razor burns
- some medications
- insect bites
Lumps that form on the skin are easier to diagnose than ones occurring inside the body. It is for this reason that you are advised not to ignore even the slightest changes in your body systems.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you notice signs of infection or malignancy. A hard lump under the chin or jawbone that appears as if from nowhere is never a good sign. Even if you have reasons to believe it is a benign tumor, let the diagnosis be confirmed medically.
You can also consider going for regular medical checkups. As it happens, malignant tumors rarely cause any symptoms in their early stages. You may also find diagnostic tools, such as testicular lump pictures and topics such as how to know if a lump is cancerous, very helpful.