What is an ankle lump?
An ankle lump is a protuberance or localized area of swelling in the ankle. Other general terms used to describe ankle lumps include ankle bump, nodule, contusion, tumor or cyst.
Ankle lumps can occur in one or both ankles at a time. Depending on the specific cause, you may have a single or multiple ankle lumps. They can also be soft or firm, painful or painless, and may grow rapidly or may not change in size. Ankle lumps can occur in any age group or population.
Lumps in the ankle can be caused by any number of conditions, including infections, inflammation, tumors and trauma. Many ankle lumps are the result of traumatic causes. The ankles are vulnerable to trauma because of their proximity to the ground and their role in walking, running and jumping. Traumatic causes of ankle lumps and bumps range from hematomas (a localized collection of blood in the tissues) to ankle sprains and fractures.
Both benign and malignant tumors of the skin and soft tissues can sometimes produce lumps in the ankle. Other causes can include ganglion cysts, which are fluid-filled, sac-like structures that can form in the top of the foot or ankle.
In some cases, ankle lumps can be caused by infection, inflammation, trauma, or other conditions that could become serious, especially left untreated. Seek prompt medical care if you have an unexplained ankle lump, or have been treated for an ankle lump and your condition is not improving.
Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have experienced moderate to severe ankle trauma and have symptoms, such as severe ankle deformity, complete inability to bear weight or walk, severe ankle pain or swelling, or loss of sensation in the foot.
What other symptoms might occur with an ankle lump?
An ankle lump may be accompanied by other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. An ankle lump may be accompanied by other symptoms including:
Bleeding from an injury
Joint stiffness and pain
Pus or discharge
Rash or itching
Redness and warmth
Tenderness or pain
Symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition
In some cases, underlying causes of an ankle lump are serious and should be treated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have a possible ankle infection or have experienced moderate to severe ankle trauma and have any of these symptoms:
Ankle, foot, or lower leg deformity
Complete inability to bear weight or walk
Loss of sensation in the foot
Severe ankle pain or swelling
What causes an ankle lump?
Ankle lumps have many possible causes, including trauma, infections, inflammatory diseases, benign (noncancerous) cysts and tumors, and (rarely) cancer.
Traumatic causes of ankle lumps
Minor to severe injuries and trauma can result in localized swelling or a lump in the ankle. Injuries include:
- Ankle dislocation
- Fracture (broken bone) in the foot, lower leg, or ankle
- Hematoma (collection of blood in the tissues of the ankle)
- Localized tissue swelling (edema)
- Scar tissue from a previous injury or surgery
Infectious causes of ankle lumps
Infectious causes of ankle lumps or swelling include viral and bacterial infections. Left untreated, some of these diseases can lead to serious complications and secondary illnesses. Infections that cause ankle lumps include:
- Cat scratch disease (infection caused by being scratched or bitten by a cat that carries the Bartonella henselae bacterium)
- Cellulitis (invasive infection of the skin and surrounding tissues)
- Infected wound on the ankle
Inflammatory and arthritic causes of ankle lumps
Ankle lumps or swelling can also be caused by different types of arthritis that affect the ankle joint such as:
Gout (type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints)
Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic system-wide autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)
Tumor-related causes of ankle lumps
Benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) tumors that can cause ankle lumps include:
Fibroma (benign tumor composed of fibrous or connective tissue; fibroma is very rare in the ankle)
Lipoma (benign fatty growth)
Nevi (moles of the skin)
Other forms of cancer
Other causes of ankle lumps
Ankle lumps can also be caused by other diseases, disorders and conditions such as:
Ganglion cyst (benign fluid-filled lump under the skin)
Hives on the ankle
Sting or bite injuries
Questions for diagnosing the cause of an ankle lump
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care provider will ask you several questions related to your lump including:
How long have you had the lump?
Is the lump getting bigger or changing in any way?
Is the lump painful?
Are you experiencing any other symptoms along with the lump?
Ankle lumps can be due to serious diseases in some cases. Failure to seek treatment can result in complications depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Even a minor ankle injury that causes an ankle lump should be examined by a doctor to ensure a correct diagnosis, proper treatment, and prevention of further injury during the healing process. Once the underlying condition is diagnosed, following the treatment plan you and your healthcare provider develop specifically for you will minimize the risk of complications including:
Gangrene or tissue death and amputation of the foot
Loss of mobility and disability
Permanent deformity of the ankle, foot, or lower leg
Spread of cancer
- Spread of infection to the blood