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Pain in Left Armpit: 15 Common Causes and Treatments



You may have noticed that an armpit is a very sensitive area of your skin. It’s no wonder as various nerves and vessels run through your armpits. Thus, pain in this part of your body is quite common.

It usually occurs in the left armpit, but fortunately, in most cases it’s not a symptom of any serious conditions. You should never ignore it, though, and find its cause. If the pain is very strong or doesn’t go away after a few days, always consult it with your doctor.

The Symptoms of Pain in Left Armpit

The types of pain in the left armpit may vary. It may be mild or intense as well as it can be chronic, sudden, or appear periodically. Usually it’s accompanied by some other symptoms, which depend on the cause of the problem.

When your left armpit hurts, you may also notice that it’s swollen too. It may suggest some problem with the lymph node. If that’s the case, you can also experience pain in other places of your body, in which lymph nodes are located, for example, in your legs or abdomen.

Pain in the left armpit may also be related to some skin conditions. However, you will probably notice some redness, inflammation, or a rash too.

Some breast disorders may also result in pain in the left armpit. When that happens you may feel a kind of a lump in your chest area or notice that your left breast has changed its shape or size. Also, be alarmed if one of your nipples looks different.

15 Common Causes of Pain in Left Armpit

The pain in the left armpit may result from various reasons. Luckily, most of them are not serious and you don’t need to be worried about them. However, it’s worth observing your pain and accompanying symptoms as once you know the cause, you will easily treat it.

1. Epilation

Epilation is actually one of the main reasons of pain under armpits, especially among women. Improper hair removal from your armpits may cause quite intense pain. The problem, however, usually affects both armpits and not only the left one.

Using a blunt blade is probably the most common mistake that you can make while removing your hair. When you do that, the inflammation of your hair follicles may appear or some bumps or ingrown hair may develop, which may be quite painful.

Therefore, if you don’t want to suffer from armpit pain and irritation, always use a sharp blade and try not to remove very short hair. Don’t forget to moisturize the skin after epilation, but wait around ten minutes before you apply a cream.

2. Cosmetics

Probably the most prosaic cause of pain in the left armpit, however, at the same time one of the most common reasons. The cosmetics you use on an everyday basis may be the reason of pain in the left armpit.

Therefore, have a closer look at your deodorant, soap, or perfume. Stop using them for a few days and see if you can notice and difference. If the pain in your left armpit is the consequence of cosmetics, you will also probably suffer from a rash, redness, or itching. In severe cases even skin inflammation may occur.

When you choose cosmetics, always read the labels and pick the ones which don’t contain strong chemicals or fragrance. They should be alcohol-free too or at least have a low percentage of it.

3. Overstretched Muscle

If you do sports regularly and these are activities which require some fierce or sudden moves, such as javelin, baseball, tennis, or weightlifting, it’s highly probable that you simply strained or overstretched a muscle.

The muscles which can be found in the area of your chest, shoulders, and armpits belong to a group of large muscles, which can be easily injured. If it’s nothing serious, though, the pain should go away on its own after a few days. Otherwise, consult a doctor in this matter.

4. Angina

It may sound surprising, but angina might be the cause of pain in your left armpit too. Angina is an insidious condition, which if not well treated, may end with unpleasant complications.

In severe cases angina can lead to so called ischemia, which is a coronary artery disease. If your heart doesn’t get enough of oxygenated blood, you may end up with this serious disease.

Therefore, it’s really important to follow you doctor’s advice and always finish the antibiotic treatment as only then you won’t get any complications and you will successfully cure it. In case of complications after angina, apart from pain in the left armpit, you may also experience the feeling of heaviness in your chest, dizziness, fatigue, you may have some breathing difficulties, or feel pain in your jaw and neck.

You must be aware that if you’ve been dealing with high blood pressure, diabetes, high level of cholesterol, or some heart disease, you are in a risk group of getting angina. Similarly, it also happens more commonly to people who smoke or don’t do any exercises regularly.

5. Lymphadenitis

Small, oval-shaped organs known as lymph nodes are really crucial for proper functioning of your organism as this is where your immune cells can be found. Lymph nodes are located in your armpits, but also in your neck or groin.

When some viruses or bacteria want to attack your organism, lymph nodes develop special compounds which may fight theses enemies. However, when you’re fighting against an infection or sickness, your lymph nodes may get sick too, then they are swollen and painful.

The inflammation of lymph nodes is actually known as lymphadenitis. If it’s mild, some over-the-counter painkillers and warm compresses will be just enough to cure it. However, in case you don’t see any improvement after a few days, go to see you doctor, who will probably prescribe you some antibiotics. In rare cases lymphadenitis may be a sign of a cancerous tumor, thus, never ignore it.

6. Hidradenitis Suppurativa

A troublesome skin condition known as hidradenitis suppurativa may be the cause of pain in the left armpit. If you suffer from this condition you will experience painful lumps under your armpits. Other body parts which are often affected with the disease are groin and buttocks as it usually attacks areas where skin rubs together.

Hidradenitis suppurativa occurs as a result of blockage and inflammation of hair follicles. Unfortunately, the exact cause of the blockage hasn’t been clearly identified yet. The doctors, however, relate it with genetics, hormonal imbalance, metabolic syndrome, obesity, smoking cigarettes, or problems with your immune system.

The lumps which appear in the skin have the size of a pea, are usually reddish and have black heads. After some time they break, releasing a smelly substance and you can observe a tunnel under your skin. You should never leave hidradenitis suppurativa untreated as it may lead to scars, infections, or even cancer.

If you consult your doctor in the early stage of the disease, you will be able to deal with it quickly and without any complications.

7. Brachial Plexus Injury

If you do contact sports or if you experienced some sudden and serious fall, there is a possibility that you got an injury of a brachial plexus. It consists of nerves that start in your spinal cord, extend to your neck, over your first rib, and end in your armpit.

A brachial plexus injury may result in left armpit pain. Problems with this part of your body may also relate to various nerve disorders, which may occur as a consequence of dysfunction or neuropathy.

8. Heartburn

For sure you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux from time to time. It’s an annoying, burning sensation in our stomach or chest area. However, quite surprisingly, it can also radiate to the armpit.

If it’s the heartburn that is the culprit of pain in your left armpit, you will probably feel it stronger when you lie down or bend over. It’s also more troublesome just after eating a heavy meal or at night. It usually lasts a few minutes only.

If heartburn happens just occasionally, you probably just have to pay attention to the food you eat and identify what food products may cause it. If it happens often, you can try some home-remedies, like eating mustard, or consult your doctor who will prescribe you medicines to regulate the acid formation in the stomach.

9. Sporotrichosis

Sporotrichosis, also called a rose handler’s disease, can also result in pain in the left armpit. It’s a kind of fungus infection common among people who work with soil and vegetation. Therefore, it’s a condition of farmers and gardeners and this is where it has its name.

The type of fungus which causes the disease comes from mold and yeasts, which enter your skin. You must be aware, though, that once you get infected, the condition can develop after a few months. The main symptom is a small bump on the skin, often under the left armpit. First it’s just a mild change, but after a few months it can look like an open wound.

It’s a potentially life-threatening condition which, if left untreated, will spread to other parts of the body or even lungs, joints, and brain.

10. Peripheral Artery Disease

In this circulatory disease your blood doesn’t flow through you arteries in legs or arms as it should because they are narrowed. It’s quite a common condition, which may cause pain in one or both armpits.

A peripheral artery disease usually appears as a result of another condition, which is known as atherosclerosis. It happens when too much of fat clogs your artery walls. There are cases when it’s a matter of genetics that people get it. Unfortunately, in most cases an unhealthy lifestyle is to blame as it’s a condition of smokers and obese people.

If you know that you’ve been suffering from atherosclerosis and, apart from pain in your armpits, you’ve also observed numbness or weakness, or that your arm or leg has a slightly different color, consult your doctor immediately.

11. Shingles

It’s a viral infection, caused by a virus known as varicella-zoster. This virus causes chickenpox too. It can attack almost any part of your body, but it often appears in the armpit.

The most characteristic symptom of the disease is a stripe of blisters, which are filled with fluid. They may break, which is really painful. Apart from that, you may also observe an itchy rash or a kind of a burning sensation on the skin, which can be more sensitive to touch as well.

In general, shingles is not considered to be dangerous on condition that your immune system works well. Therefore, it’s potentially risky for children and older people as their immune system is often weakened. Consult your doctor if you suffer from additional symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, fever, or when the rash spreads to your eyes area.

12. Breast Cancer

Pain in your left armpit may also be a potential symptom of breast cancer. You need to be alarmed especially if you’ve also noticed that one of your breasts looks slightly different. It may be a change in the shape or size of the breast, you may feel some bump in it or that your nipple suddenly got inverted or some liquid comes up.

Even if you feel something in your breast, you don’t need to panic as most changes are just cysts or fatty growths, which are benign. What’s more, as your armpit is usually warm and wet, it’ s good place for cysts development. Luckily, you can have them easily removed or they just go away on their own.

Remember that a breast cancer is often a matter of genetics. Therefore, if any of your relatives has suffered from it, you can’t ignore even the slightest change you notice in your breast. Actually, you should control your breasts even if you don’t see anything suspicious.

Other factors which may potentially lead to a breast cancer include hormonal problems, your lifestyle, and environment you live in. Those are just theories, though, which have not been firmly proved.

A breast cancer often starts in breast tissues, cells, or milk-producing ducts, and at the beginning it’s just a small lump under your skin. Remember that the earlier you examine it, the higher probability that it’s nothing serious. Also, be aware that breast cancer may also appear in men.

13. Connective Tissues Disorders

If you’ve been suffering from unexplained pain in left armpit, it might be the consequence of damage or degeneration of your connective tissue. You won’t observe any bumps there, but you may have some moving difficulties.

You won’t manage to deal with the problem on your own so if your pain lasts more than a few days, consult your doctor on this matter.

14. Anxiety and Depression

Probably the most surprising reason, but it has been scientifically proved that pain in the left armpit may be the consequence of some mental problems. Depression or anxiety often appear together with so called somatic symptoms, which include some unexplained pains in different parts of our body, sleeping difficulties, chronic tiredness and weakness, irritation, excessive sweating, or rapid heart rate.

Don’t try to fight depression or anxiety on your own as it’s usually a long and bumpy road. Go to a psychiatrist or psychologist who will know how to help you.

15. Other Causes

Some other, rare causes of pain in your left armpit include a bacterial infection, known as a glandular infection, which usually appears as a consequence of poor hygiene of your armpits.

If you have your shoulder dislocated, you can experience strong pain in the armpit too. The area may be also swollen or numb. Using crutches may also end up with pain in the armpits.

There is also a condition called hyperthyroidism, which may develop if you’ve been taking a lot of iodine. Your armpit may be painful and swollen then. Certain bacteria, known as mastitis and staphylococcus may cause some breast infections, which often result in pain in the armpit.

When to See a Doctor

Consult your doctor immediately if the pain in your left armpit is sudden and severe or when you also suffer from some other alarming symptoms such as chest palpitation, paralysis of any of your body parts, or breathing difficulties.

Also, you should make an appointment if you feel some suspicious lumps in your breasts area as it may suggest a condition in which only fast reaction guarantees full treatment. If you know what caused pain under your left armpit, for example a strained or overstretched muscle, simply wait a few days and if the pain doesn’t alleviate, then go to a doctor. Of course, in case of an injury give up doing sports for some time.

If it’s difficult to determine the cause of your pain, your doctor will have to run some extra tests and ask you some additional questions. Tell him when the pain started and if you experience other symptoms too. It’s possible that you will have blood tests done and that the doctor will examine your skin, ears, and throat.

It’s also highly probable that you will have to see another specialist. If there is some problem with your lymph nodes, you may have to go to a hematologist. In case your pain is accompanied by a rash or itching, you should go to a dermatologist. Remember, though, that in case of some skin problems, you should start with changing your cosmetics. If you feel a lump in your breast, you will have to visit a breast cancer specialist.

Possible Treatments

Of course, the cause of your pain determines the treatment. If you deal with an injury or a strained muscle, you may try hot and cold compresses, which will boost the blood circulation. Of course, have a rest for a couple of days and avoid intense training.

If your pain is a consequence of a specific disease, it will require a medical treatment. Shingles, for example, is healed with antiviral drugs, the most popular include acyclovir or valaciclovir. Similarly, hidradenitis suppurativa needs medications for acne or even antibiotics.

In case of swelling in lymph nodes area, your doctor will have to recognize the cause first. In case of a viral infection, you will just have to rest in bed for a few days. In case of a bacterial infection, however, antibiotics may be required. In both situation warm compresses may bring you some relief from pain and swelling.

The treatment for a breast cancer depends on how advanced it is. If it’s an early stage, it’s highly probable that it will be fully cured. Your doctor may suggest you a surgical removal of your tumor, radiation, or chemotherapy.

Preventive Measures

Good hygiene is the most important piece of advice when it comes to preventing pain in the armpit. If your armpits will be often oily or dirty, it’s very easy to get some bacterial or viral infections. Also, if you notice a rash, don’t ignore it and give up epilation for a few days as otherwise it may get worse.

If you want to prevent viral infections, such as shingles, consider getting vaccinated. It’s an especially good idea for older people and children. Be careful when choosing soaps, detergents, antiperspirants, or deodorants if you have a tendency to contact allergies or your skin gets irritated easily.

Also, don’t work out too intensely and always remember about stretching if you don’t want to end up with a strained muscle. A breast cancer or lymphatic diseases are rather impossible to prevent. However, what you should do is regular check-ups and preventive tests, which your doctor recommends you. In most cases only an early stage of a disease guarantees full recovery.

Leading a healthy lifestyle and doing exercises regularly may effectively help you prevent different viral and bacterial infections. When doing sports, it’s worth combining outdoor and indoor activities as it will make your immune system strong.

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