Bumps on Elbows: Causes & How to Get Rid of Small Itchy, Red Rash & Elbow Lumps

Any number of medical conditions and environmental factors can contribute to the formation of small red and white bumps on your elbows. The rash or bumps can become quite uncomfortable and rather painful and itchy.

The elbows often become exposed to irritants from soaps, clothing or sun. They also are prone to pressure-sensitive skin irritations.

Since the causes of the bumps vary, the mode of treatment and remedy will vary depending on the cause.

Causes

Bumps-on-elbows-or-elbow-rash

What causes bumps on elbows? Lumps on elbows are caused by many different reasons.

One of the causes is bumps on the elbows in babies is due to either psoriasis, scabies or eczema which are the most common skin conditions.

These skin conditions are generally caused by a combination of genetics and irritation of the immune system and allergens.

Psoriasis and eczema generally occurs in elbows, knees, knuckles, forearms and fingers, and generally any place that naturally creases.

Bumps can also form in babies’ elbows amongst other body parts due to scabies. This is a condition that is caused by tiny parasitic mites that hide under the skin. If your baby gets scabies, he’ll develop an extremely itchy rash. It will appear as red scattered bumps usually around his fingers, wrists and elbows.

Scabies is also a highly contagious conditions that can be passed from anyone who has contact with your baby to your infant. Other causes include:

1. Tanning or sun exposure

Small bumps can appear all over the body after tanning. However, they are more commonly found in certain areas, such as stomach, chest, back and legs which are exposed to the ultraviolet rays for a longer duration.

These eruptions are often referred to as tan bed rash which may develop immediately after tanning or a few days later. They look like blisters and are red in color.

Their appearance is very similar to that of heat rash. The skin bumps may or may not be painful but cause a lot of irritation.

These bumps are caused by excessive exposure to UV rays. Lighter skinned people are also more prone to formation of itchy red bumps especially on the elbow and areas where the skin naturally creases. Allergic reaction to the tanning lotion may also cause the bumps on your elbow.

2. Psoriasis

Psoriasis turns your skin cells into Type A overachievers. They grow about five times faster than normal skin cells. And your body can’t keep up. The old ones pile up instead of sloughing off, making thick, flaky, itchy patches.

Researchers think something sets off your immune system. The exact reason is a mystery. But it’s likely a combination of genetics and triggers.

If you’ve got the right combination of genes, something can turn psoriasis “on” or start a flare.

Skin injury: A cut, scrape, bug bite, infection, bad sunburn, or even too much scratching can trigger the condition.

Infections: Strep infections, in particular, are linked with guttate psoriasis, which looks like small, red drops. Kids will often have strep throat before their first flare. Respiratory infection such as a cold, the flu or pneumonia.

HIV:  Psoriasis usually is worse in the beginning stages of the disease, but then it gets better after you start certain treatments.

3. Eczema bumps on elbows

Atopic demartitis (which is often called eczema) is an itchy, red rash. It can appear all over the body. Many people have it on their elbows or behind their knees. Babies often have eczema on the face, especially the cheeks and chin. They can also have it on the scalp, trunk (chest and back), and outer arms and legs.

Children and adults tend to have eczema on the neck, wrists, and ankles, and in areas that bend, like the inner elbow and knee.

People with eczema are usually diagnosed with it when they are babies or young children. Eczema symptoms often become less severe as children grow into adults.

For some people, eczema continues into adulthood. Less often, it can start in adulthood. The rash of eczema is different for each person. It may even look different or affect different parts of your body from time to time. It can be mild, moderate, or severe. Generally, people with eczema suffer from dry, sensitive skin.

Eczema is also known for its intense itch. The itch may be so bad that you scratch your skin until it bleeds, which can make your rash even worse, leading to even more inflammation and itching. This is called the itch-scratch cycle.

Although it is not known what exactly causes eczema, the following are thought to accelerate or make the condition to manifest.

  • Genetics
  • Abnormal function of the immune system
  • Environment
  • Activities that may cause skin to be more sensitive
  • Defects in the skin barrier that allow moisture out and germs in.

4. Lump after a fall

An elbow lump is an abnormal protrusion or bump within the elbow joint or on the surface of the elbow. Elbow lumps can happen to anyone. Often, elbow lumps are the result of an injury, such as a blow to the elbow.

Elbow lumps may result from inflammation (swelling), poor healing of a broken bone, or a skin growth, such as a cyst or tumor.

Inflammation of the elbow can result from tendinitis, bursitis, sports injury, sprains, strains, arthritis, or infections within the joint. Growths can be either benign or cancerous in nature.

5. Burstitis

Olecranon bursitisis inflammation of a small sac of fluid located on the tip of the elbow. This inflammation can cause many problems in the elbow. Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa. In some cases, a direct blow or a fall onto the elbow can damage the bursa.

This usually causes bleeding into the bursa sac, because the blood vessels in the tissues that make up the bursa are damaged and torn. In the skin this would simply form a bruise, but in a bursa blood may actually fill the bursa sac. This causes the bursa to swell up like a rubber balloon filled with water.

The blood in the bursa is thought to cause an inflammatory reaction. The walls of the bursa may thicken and remain thickened and tender even after the blood has been absorbed by the body. This thickening and swelling of the bursa is referred to as olecranon bursitis.

Olecranon bursitis can also occur over a longer period of time. People who constantly put their elbows on a hard surface as part of their activities or job can repeatedly injure the bursa. This repeated injury can lead to irritation and thickening of the bursa over time. The chronic irritation leads to the same condition in the end: olecranon bursitis.

The olecranon bursa can also become infected. This may occur without any warning, or it may be caused by a small injury and infection of the skin over the bursa that spreads down into the bursa. In this case, instead of blood or inflammatory fluid in the bursa, it becomes filled with pus. The area around the bursa becomes hot, red, and very tender.

6. Cancer crease

The exact symptoms of bone cancer will vary, depending on the size of the cancer and where it is in the body. Common symptoms include

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Problems with movement

The area around the bone tumour may be painful or tender. The pain is often worse at night. If the tumour is close to a nerve, you may have pain that travels along the nerve.

You may feel the pain in a different part of the body to where the tumour is. If the cancer is forming around your elbow, then you might feel a lump around the elbow crease.

It is therefore advisable to seek immediate medical attention in order to ascertain whether it is a normal lump or it is cancerous.

7. Dry skin

People who have dry skin can often find rough, dry, red patches on their skin, and these patches are often itchy.

Typical skin areas affected include arms, hands, lower legs, abdomen, and areas of friction such as ankles and soles. As skin dryness becomes more severe, cracks and fissures may evolve.

Symptoms and signs:

  • Painful lumps.
  • Dry skin.
  • Red patches.

Itchy bumps on elbow

Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is an intensely itchy skin disease. It causes clusters of small blisters and bumps. It typically affects people in their 40s or 50s, but it can occur at any age. This lifelong condition affects more men than women.

DH is caused by an allergy to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and grains. When you have DH and eat food with gluten, the gluten combines with an antibody from the intestines.

As the gluten and antibody circulate in the blood, they clog small blood vessels in the skin. This is what causes the rash.

Symptoms may include:

  • Clusters of itchy, small blisters and bumps, mostly on the elbows, lower back, buttocks, knees, and back of the head.
  • Severe itching and burning.

Red rash

Rash is a symptom that causes the affected area of skin to turn red and blotchy and to swell. A rash may cause spots that are bumpy, scaly, flaky, or filled with pus. Rashes can vary in location, pattern, and extent and may occur in any area of the body.

An elbow rash can have a variety of causes, and it may indicate something occurring around the elbow itself or suggest a systemic (body-wide) condition.

Contact dermatitis (skin inflammation) is caused by an adverse reaction to something that touches the skin, including chemicals found in detergent, soap or a fragrance.

For example, you may develop a rash on your elbow when wearing a shirt that was washed with a particular detergent or treated with a chemical. Exposure to metal can also cause elbow rash. Other forms of contact dermatitis include exposure to certain plants, such as poison oak or ivy, an animal bite, or an insect sting.

Raised lumps

An elbow lump is an abnormal protrusion or bump within the elbow joint or on the surface of the elbow. Elbow lumps can happen to anyone. Often, elbow lumps are the result of an injury, such as a blow to the elbow.

Elbow lumps may result from inflammation (swelling), poor healing of a broken bone, or a skin growth, such as a cyst or tumor. Inflammation of the elbow can result from tendinitis, bursitis, sports injury, sprains, strains, arthritis, or infections within the joint. Growths can be either benign or cancerous in nature.

Small white bumps

In fact what people perceive as white bumps in some cases may be central plugs – that are filed with pus or other materials – on top of red bumps.

Nevertheless, you may want to compare your symptoms with those of the following skin conditions when evaluating your specific case:

Keratosis pilaris: This is a common skin condition that gives the skin a sandpaper-like feel. It happens when dead skin cells do not fall off as they naturally do. When that happens, the skin protein called keratin plug the hair follicles leading to small goose bumps like rough bumps.

The area of skin affected by the bumps often gets dry and can get particularly itchy. The symptoms may worsen during winter months when humidity levels are usually at their lowest and the skin this tends to get drier.

Keratosis pilaris may affect individuals of any age but it tends to affect young children more.

How to get rid of them

Rub a banana peel onto your elbows.

Rubbing a banana peel on the elbows in a circular motion with a banana peel to reduce dryness. As noted in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, bananas are a fruit rich in vitamin C (which aids in healing), and the peel has been scientifically shown to contain both antifungal and antibiotic components.

Exfoliate.

Regular exfoliation is a great treatment for keratosis pilaris, which is a harmless yet bothersome condition that’s responsible for the “chicken skin” texture of your upper arms and elbows. (It can also appear in other places, like the thighs.)

Keratin, a type of protein that’s a building block for healthy skin, hair and nails, can build up in your pores, which plugs the hair follicles, causing bumps and ingrown hairs. Gently exfoliating in the shower helps soften the skin. Follow up with an over-the-counter lotion that contains lactic acid, which helps reduce keratin buildup.

Moisturize.

Milk is handy for a soothing soak. Thick moisturizing creams and petroleum jelly are the best products for a little post-shower attention, and some experts recommend at least two applications a day.

Other over-the-counter options are lotions containing urea, lactic acid, or alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids, which are good for fighting bumps. A very small amount of jojoba oil, massaged into dry elbows, will closely mimic the body’s own natural moisturizers.

Consult a doctor

Considering the commonness of dry elbows and all of the possible causes, it seems as if you could try home and over-the-counter remedies forever. In certain cases, though, a trip to the pharmacy just won’t cut it.

The elbows are common prey for psoriasis, though many people incorrectly assume it’s just a case of dryness. Psoriasis is characterized most often by patches of raised red skin topped off with shiny scales, which can ooze, crust or bleed if they’re picked or irritated.

Elbows are an especially painful area because bending and moving affected skin can further irritate the rash, and psoriasis sometimes causes joint pain (psoriatic arthritis) in affected areas.

Sources and references

  1. Hopkin’s Medicine: /dermatitis_herpetiformis

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