Let’s talk about your armpits.
They’re probably not your favorite subject—or even something that you think about very often. However, your armpits contain important glands that your body uses to fight infection and stop your body from overheating. If you’re noticing a change in how you sweat, you may need to check in with your doctor.
With that being said, remember that only a physician can diagnose medical conditions. Consider making an appointment if you notice any of the following symptoms.
1. Excessive sweating can be obnoxious, but it’s usually not a serious symptom.
It can be linked to stress, but isn’t necessarily. If you’ve recently gained weight or started a new medication, that can also cause hyperhidrosis (that’s the cool medical term for sweating too much).
As you age, your body responds to stimuli differently, and you might suddenly find yourself sweating more or less than you used to. Generally, this isn’t an issue, although it is a bit embarrassing; antiperspirants can help, and your doctor may be able to offer prescriptions to minimize sweating.
2. A scaly build up could mean several things.
This could be a symptom of psoriasis, especially if it runs in your family. Psoriasis varies in intensity, and it’s generally a chronic condition, but you can limit the symptoms with medication. Stress can also be a factor in flare-ups, so if this isn’t a common issue, it might disappear when you’re able to relax.
Scaly buildup can also be caused by ringworm, a fungal infection that isn’t actually caused by a worm. This can be treated with over-the-counter sprays (but again, check with your physician before trying to treat it).
3. Painful redness can be a sign of several different conditions.
The most common is probably contact dermatitis, which occurs when your skin has an allergic reaction to something. If you’ve started using a new soap or deodorant, that’s probably the culprit. Usually, contact dermatitis goes away on its own without medical intervention.
Redness can also occur due to a bacterial or fungal infection. Some infections go away on their own, but you’ll need to keep the area dry and clean (something of a tall order, since your armpits’ primary function is to sweat). Irritation can also occur if you shave your armpits, as the hair follicles in the area can become ingrown or otherwise damaged.
4. Bumps can be signs of enlarged lymph nodes.
You might feel bumps in the center of your armpits. If they’re swollen or painful, it could be a serious symptom, although you’ll have to arrange for a diagnosis.
Lymph nodes feel larger when the body’s fighting an infection, so if you were recently sick, that’s likely the cause of the change. The nodes can also get larger due to infection, cancer, or for a host of other reasons.
Once again, all medical symptoms require diagnosis from an actual physician, and you shouldn’t assume that you have any of the conditions on this list; dermatological issues can be difficult to diagnose, even for experienced professionals. Still, paying attention to changes in your armpits can never hurt—after all, there’s no reason to live in discomfort.