Axillary infections are infections of the skin or lymph nodes located in the armpits. The most frequent cause of these infections is shaving the hair of the armpits which can result in small irritated bumps or cut skin. These bumps or cuts may then be subject to bacterial invasion, causing infections.
Young girls, who have just recently begun shaving under the armpits, are most at risk for axillary infections. These infections can be reduced by using soap and water while shaving and by making sure the razor used is clean. This can generally be accomplished by dipping the razor in alcohol for about sixty seconds prior to use.
Axillary infections may also be the result of ingrown hairs occurring after one uses depilatory creams like Nair® or when one has his or her armpits waxed. Axillary infections of this type may feel like a hard bump that is painful to the touch. Should such a bump not resolve with hot compresses within a day or two, or should the bump start releasing pus, one should see a doctor.
In some cases, waxing may result in axillary infections if a bacterium contaminates the wax. Though these infections are rare, those who get such an infection should alert the salon where one had the waxing done, and also see a doctor for treatment with antibiotics.
Often bumps in the armpits are not indicative of axillary infections, but are indications of infections in other parts of the body. The armpits have lymph nodes that can become swollen when one is fighting off either bacterial or viral infections. It is not uncommon, particularly in children, to have a swollen lymph node for several months after an illness.
However, lumps in the armpits may also be indicative of breast cancer. Thus a lump that does not resolve in a few days should always mean getting medical attention quickly. Some women manifest breast cancer with a lump in the armpit first. Breast self-exams should always include the armpits to provide a baseline analysis so one can note differences in subsequent exams.
Occasionally axillary infections are yeast-based infections. This may happen to those who have recently taken antibiotics, or to those who are immunosuppressed. The underarms may appear red and feel itchy. They may also exhibit a minor rash. If one has never had a yeast infection under the arms, then one should see a doctor. Usually, one will be treated with topical anti-fungal creams to help rid one of the infection. Any deodorant used during this time should not be shared with other members of a household, and should be discarded a few days into treatment to prevent re-infection.
Small cysts may occur in the armpits as well, and may become infected. These axillary infections may require removal of the cyst, or hot compresses, and oral antibiotics to resolve the cysts. A doctor should always evaluate these cysts to rule out cancer. Large cysts may require needle biopsy to be certain the lump is benign.
One can often distinguish between cysts and lumps caused by cancer because cysts tend to be painful, whereas lumps are not. However, this alone is not enough to rule out cancer. Any lump in the axillary regions necessitates medical evaluation.