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Swelling without pain can have a variety of causes. But sometimes painless doesn't mean harmless. So swelling without pain is also an early symptom of malignant tumors.
Lymphedema, water retention on the lymphatic vessels, is the most common cause of swelling without pain. In addition to the painless swelling, there is a strong tension in the affected parts of the body. In addition, the connective tissue increases and hardens in the affected body regions, this is called fibrosis.
Swelling at the bottom of the chin
Is such a swelling elastic and does it look like dough? Then the cause is often bruising from an injury or taking anticoagulants. Very rarely, the trigger lies in an oral floor cyst - a congenital malformation. But this is harmless. Or - less harmlessly - the salivary gland in the lower jaw has caught fire.
Here you should wait to see whether the swelling will go away on its own, and if not, see a doctor in the following weeks.
Does the swelling show up as a hard knot? Then a cause can be a saliva stone in the salivary glands of the lower jaw. It is extremely rare to have a tumor in the lower salivary gland or in the jawbone. This can be benign or malignant. Be sure to go to the otolaryngologist.
Swelling of the front neck that moves with it
Such swelling is often accompanied by nervousness, weight loss or gain, and freezing. Possible causes include a goiter, a chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland, a cyst in the middle of the neck, or a scattered tissue of the thyroid gland. If the swelling does not subside or return in a few days, you should definitely seek medical advice.
Painless growing lump on the front neck
Such knots are sometimes associated with hoarseness and noise when inhaled. Swallowing disorders can also occur. Caution: These knots can be harmless, but they should definitely be checked with a doctor. These can be tumors, more precisely thyroid carcinomas or larynx cancer.
Swelling on the front neck that fills with air
This is a so-called airbag. The larynx has sagged. You should have this examined by a specialist.
Nodules on the side of the neck
These nodules can also be located above the collarbones. Side effects are sometimes fever, night sweats and fatigue. Here there is often a chronic inflammation of the lymph nodes due to previous infections. Toxoplasmosis, HIV or tuberculosis are also possible. Metastases from malignant tumors can also be a trigger. If you feel such painless nodules, you should definitely go to the ENT doctor you trust.
Single knot over the clavicle
Such smooth painless nodules are mostly due to benign tumors in the skin or tissue. Lipomas, i.e. swollen fatty tissue or fibromas, are typical. These are benign growths in the connective tissue.
Chronic swelling on the side of the neck
If these do not cause pain, but if they are associated with involuntary gagging of undigested food, the esophageal wall is likely to bulge. Those affected should have this examined immediately by a specialist.
Painless leg swelling
Such thickening can occur on the entire leg, from the foot and ankle to the groin. If these occur unilaterally, the most common acute cause is thrombosis in the leg veins.
With chronic leg swelling, on the other hand, there is often post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS). This is the result of an acute undetected thrombosis in the veins of the pelvis or thigh. If you suffer from this, doctors have to partially open your veins again. Affected people need a compression stocking on the lower leg.
Lymphedema on the leg, i.e. water retention, can also cause painless swelling. Such lymphedema can be acquired as a result of an injury, surgery, or a tumor. Sometimes it is innate. This is sometimes difficult to see for the treating physician, since tardum lymphedema often only appears between the ages of 30 and 40, especially in women. Even bruises sometimes cause unilateral leg swelling that does not cause pain.
Soft tissue tumors
The first symptom of so-called soft tissue sarcomas is painless swelling. Almost half of these tumors are located in the lower limbs, other places are the trunk, abdomen, upper limbs and neck / head. Sometimes the painless swelling of the tumor is accompanied by non-specific symptoms such as fatigue, reduced performance or mysterious weight loss.
What are soft tissue tumors?
Malignant soft tissue tumors comprise around 100 different types of tumors in the soft and supporting tissues of the body. This includes both tumors that hardly form metastases and others that spread widely. The collective term comes about because this type of cancer is so rare overall that the various carcinomas are considered a group - for diagnosis and treatment. Their rarity and the initially unspecific symptoms such as swelling without pain pose a challenge for doctors to recognize these cell growths at all. A team of experts is asked if a carcinoma is suspected.
Where do these tumors form?
About 50 percent of our body belongs to the soft tissue: muscles, connective tissue, blood vessels and nerves. These tumors are considered malignant because they form metastases that spread to other organs.
How common are soft tissue cancers?
These sarcomas are very rare. Only one adult in 50,000 develops this growth. That is one percent of all malignant tumors. Children and adolescents suffer more often than young adults and old people. However, this cancer is less common between the ages of 45 and 55.
The causes of soft tissue cancer are largely unclear. Few of the tumors suggest genetic predisposition, such as that on the nerve sheath tissue.
Swelling of the salivary gland
Sialose is the technical term for a painless swelling of the salivary gland that does not become inflamed. The causes are usually diseases that affect the metabolism - such as an overactive thyroid or diabetes mellitus. But alcoholism, malnutrition and beta blockers can also trigger this swelling.
When to the doctor?
If you are not impaired in its functions, you do not need treatment. However, many sufferers find a swollen salivary gland ugly and undergo treatment for cosmetic reasons.
A swelling without pain in the scrotum can have many triggers - some unproblematic, some life-threatening, including benign and malignant tumors. With a swollen scrotum, you should definitely go to a urologist alone to rule out or have a malignant tumor removed, if it is present.
This is a poor drainage of the veins. The swelling appears on the left side. It can also develop secondary, through pressure or thrombosis in other parts of the abdomen. In the first degree it can only be recognized with imaging methods, in the second degree it can be felt, in the third degree it is visible.
This varicocele does not cause pain, but: The temperature of the testicles increases because warmer blood flows out of the body, but the drainage is disturbed. The testicles receive too little oxygen. This can cause the nuclear epithelium to malfunction. Therefore, you should have a varicocele treated immediately if you want to father children. Varicocele in children is treated surgically. The veins are opened again and relocated if necessary.
Cause Hyrdocele funiculi spermatici
Here, liquid collects in the vicinity of the spermatic cord. The cause is infection, damage after injuries and operations, and tumors. It is typical for the swelling that it swells up and down during the day. An ultrasound examination shows exactly the accumulation of fluid, but also whether the testicles or epididymis are damaged.
Gums swell painlessly for various reasons. Inadequate care of the oral cavity can be as much a trigger as excessive hygiene. The latter leads to an over-stimulus to which the gums respond. Periodontitis can also be present. Fistulas, hematomas, strong circulation during pregnancy and the consequences of an injury are also possible. In addition, the early stage of gum infection is usually painless. We call it gingivitis. If it extends to the jawbone, it is called periodontitis, which causes pain.
Painless swelling spans a variety of body regions and appearances. Otorhinolaryngologists are in demand for swellings in the neck area, dentists for gums, urologists for swollen scrotums.
The respective doctors first find out whether and which cosymptoms are there, what the patient's medical history is (accidents, injuries, operations) and then decide on further examinations. If you suspect a malignant tumor, take tissue samples and send them to the laboratory. If infections with viruses and bacteria are suspected, they also take samples and have them examined for pathogens.
There is no “one” treatment for the variety of possible causes. Doctors address the cause, for example diabetes mellitus or overactive thyroid. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are usually necessary for cancer. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Gerhart Tepohl: Unilateral leg swelling, Bavarian Internist Congress, (accessed August 6, 2019), BIK
- University Hospital Cologne: Salivary gland swellings in adults and children, (accessed August 6, 2019), UK
- Klinikum Uni Heidelberg: patient information for soft tissue sarcomas, (accessed August 6, 2019), Heidelberg University
- Doris Simhofer: Parotid carcinoma, MINI MED, (accessed August 6, 2019), minimed
- Marvin P. Fried: Swelling of the throat, MSD Manual, (accessed August 6, 2019), MSD