Groin lump

Other names
Lump in the groin; bubo; inguinal lymphadenopathy, localised lymphadenopathy – groin


A groin lump is swelling to the groin in a confined to a small area. It may be hard or soft, sensitive or not sore at all.


1. Enlarged lymph glands (lymphadenitis)
Predisposing factors of lymphadenitis are trauma to the groin area, obstruction of normal drainage, chemical irritation, haematoma (formation of a blood clot) and foreign bodies. The process usually begins as a cellulitis (infection of the skin), which leads to necrosis (dead skin formation) and loculation (formation of small indentation) of pus and the forming of an abscess, as well as lymphatic spread, such as lymphadenitis.

Upon inspection, the groin area will appear red, tender, warm and swollen. The patient can also be systemically ill and can present with symptoms of mild fever and malaise.

You have to consult your doctor immediately to have the correct diagnosis made and to commence with the correct treatment.

2. Hernia
A hernia is a soft, spongy swelling in the groin area that can protrude through to the scrotum. This condition is usually painless, but torsion (twisting) of the hernia can lead to severe pain that needs to be attended to by your doctor immediately. A hernia is treated with surgery to remove the hernia itself.

3. Cancer
A cancerous lump will usually not be painful and may increase in size over a long period of time. Cancer of the groin is associated with cancer in the leg or scrotum. If you suspect that you have cancer of the groin, you should consult a doctor, in order to have an ultrasound and a fine needle aspiration of the lump done. Treatment will depend on the diagnosis made.

4. Allergic reaction
This will present with itchy, swelling of the skin in the groin area and hives may form in the affected area. You can treat this at home with oral antihistamines and Anthisan cream.

5. Drug reaction
You will experience the same symptoms as with an allergic reaction (as explained above) after taking a specific drug. Oral antihistamines can be taken at home to alleviate the symptoms. You should stop taking the medication immediately and consult a doctor regarding alternative medicine.

6. Infection
This may present as swelling and redness of a part of the skin in the groin area. It will be tender and warm to the touch and may look like a lump. You can treat this at home with topical antibiotic cream, as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. You should consult your doctor if the condition persists after five days, or worsens.

7. Injury or trauma to the groin area
You will have a history of injury or trauma to the groin area. You can treat this at home with a cold compress and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. If the lump becomes painful and there are signs of infection (lymphadenitis), you should consult a doctor immediately.

8. Sexually transmitted diseases
Syphilis can cause a lump in the groin and widespread mucotaneous (areas such as corners of the mouth, eyelids, anus, fingertips, lips) lesions, usually after a period of ten weeks after the primary infection. The lump will be a solitary red papule that rapidly forms a painless non-bleeding ulcer or chancre. The chancre normally heals within four to eight weeks, with or without treatment. It can spread to the liver, brain, joints, lymph nodes and skin.

The lump will be accompanied by symptoms which include nausea, vomiting, malaise, fever, headache, joint pain, anorexia (loss of appetite) and neck stiffness. Syphilis should be treated by a physician immediately.

HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases can also cause lumps in the groin area and if you do not have a monogamous relationship, you should have a STD screening done.

Written by Dr Anrich Burger, MB ChB (Stell)

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