Bumps on Elbows: Causes, Effective Treatments and When to See a Doctor

Bumps on Elbows: Causes, Effective Treatment and When to See a Doctor
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Bumps on elbows can appear due to a number of different causes ranging from an eczema rash to a large painful cyst. Depending on the reason for elbow bumps, you can also have a variety of other symptoms. Sometimes, the bumps on your elbow look like red spots, tiny white pimple-like spots or skin colored bumps. Or, the bumps can appear as a rash with itchy red patches of raised skin.

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Getting rid of bumps from your elbow depends on what is causing the skin lesions. Some dermatological conditions like dermatitis herpetiformis or a ganglion cyst need professional medical care. However, there are many natural home remedies that can help to soothe pain and irritation in your elbows that psoriasis, eczema, or heat rashes cause.

In this article, you will find out what could be causing bumps on your elbows. In many cases, you can treat these elbow bumps at home with effective remedies using natural ingredients. You will also learn when you should see a doctor for lumps on your elbow.

Symptoms of Bumps on Elbows

Your elbows have to endure a lot of daily wear and tear. The constant use of your elbows can cause inflammation and swelling in the joints. Constant elbow movement can also make the skin on your elbow rough and scaly and this can lead to some dermatological issues.

For example, dry skin on your elbows can cause symptoms like extreme itchiness, scaling over the red patch of skin, and sometimes oozing fluid. It is very common for eczema and psoriasis to affect the elbows and knees. In some cases, the raised red bumpy skin can appear as a rash that has been caused by scabies mites or Lyme’s disease from a tick bite.

Other times, inflammation of the elbow joint can cause a protruding lump on your elbow that may or may not be painful.

Causes of Bumps on Elbows

Let’s look in more detail at the causes of bumps and red rashes on your elbow and what you can do about it.

Red rash on elbows caused by eczema

Eczema is a common reason for an itchy red rash on your elbows that makes your skin itchy and bumpy.

Eczema can affect people of all ages and is common if you suffer from allergies or asthma. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, eczema often starts as a rash in the creases of the elbow skin. This can develop into an itchy, scaly rash that looks bumpy. Over time, permanent bumps on your elbow can appear. Although eczema often affects the elbows, patches of itchy rashes can appear anywhere on your body.3

Dr. William Blahd on WebMD reports that scratching the eczema rash on your elbow can cause the skin to turn leathery. You may also notice fluid-filled blisters that weep fluid when scratched. In some cases, scratching the itchy patch can cause a secondary skin infection.4

At the end of this article, you can find some effective home remedies for eczema to soothe the itchy, bumpy rash on your elbow. Or for more details you can refer to my articles about 13 natural remedies for eczema and the best essential oils for eczema.

Psoriasis

You may have patches of itchy raised lesions on your elbows due to psoriasis.

Psoriasis has symptoms similar to eczema but it is thought that the red rashes are due to an immune system response. This causes skin cells to grow very fast and results in raised patches of red, scaly skin.

Researchers from the National Psoriasis Foundation say that this dermatological condition often affects the outside of the elbows, knees, or scalp. Along with the intense itch, the bumpy rash may feel like it is burning or stinging.5

The most common form of psoriasis, plaque psoriasis, often affects the elbows and lower back and can also cause the skin on your elbows to crack and bleed. World-renowned dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman says that psoriasis can also cause arthritis that results in swelling and painful joints and could affect your elbows.6

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In my article about 12 natural remedies for psoriasis you can find how capsaicin cream can help get rid of itching from your body as well as other home remedies for psoriasis. At the end of this article, you will find out how to use apple cider vinegar to get relief from itchy skin caused by psoriasis.

Heat rash on elbows

Itchy red bumps on your inner elbow may be caused by a heat rash when sweat glands become blocked and inflamed.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that heat rashes usually affect skin folds and are common in the elbow creases, armpits, and can cause an itchy groin. The inflamed sweat ducts result in red bumps on your skin that itch and can become filled with fluid. Sometimes, the rash on your elbow can look like skin-colored goosebumps.7

Dr. Benjamin Wedro on MedicineNet says that allowing the skin to cool and wearing loose-fitting clothing can help to reduce the symptoms of itchy bumps on the skin caused by heat rash.8

Hives

An allergic reaction can cause hives which causes the skin to swell and become itchy for a few hours.

According to researchers from Salisbury University, hives are common around the elbows and knees. Usually, the skin bumps caused by hives are between 1 and 3 cm. Knowing what triggers hives can be difficult. Some possible causes of hives around your elbows are ingesting food you are allergic to, an infection, or stress and anxiety.9

There are some natural antihistamines that can help to get rid of hives naturally and help reduce the severity of your allergic reaction.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Patches of itchy blisters and bumps on your elbow could be caused by dermatitis herpetiformis.

Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is a skin disease that causes an intense itch along with bumps and blisters on your skin.

According to doctors at Johns Hopkins Medicine, dermatitis herpetiformis frequently causes itchy bumps on the elbows, back of the head, lower back, buttocks, and knees. Dermatitis herpetiformis is caused by an intolerance to gluten, and the red bumps on your elbows are a reaction triggered by the immune response.1

The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology reports that the clusters of tiny, red itchy spots around your elbows can also cause a stinging and burning sensation. Doctors usually take a skin biopsy to diagnose DH. If DH is confirmed, then following a gluten-free diet can help to get rid of the itchy bumps on the elbows and from other areas of your body.2

Granuloma annulare

Raised reddish or skin-colored bumps on one or both of your elbows could be due to a condition called granuloma annulare.

It is thought that these skin lesions are caused by minor skin injuries or a side effect of some medications. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that these bumps in the shape of a ring aren’t itchy and they usually disappear on their own. Therefore, you don’t usually need any treatment for granuloma annulare.10

Scabies and itchy bumps on elbow

Small red bumps and blisters on your elbow that have a relentless severe itch could be caused by scabies mites.

Scabies is a highly infectious skin condition caused by mites that burrow under the skin. The infestation causes papules that constantly itch and that can become more intense at night.

Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that a skin rash of small red bumps often affects the back of the elbows and knees, in-between your fingers, and around your waist. You may also notice tiny red burrows around the bumps. Over time, the scaly area where the scabies infestation occurs can take on a wart-like appearance.11

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One way to get rid of scabies naturally is to apply tea tree oil diluted in a carrier oil. The antibacterial activity of tea tree oil can help to kill off the mites and reduce the appearance of itchy bumps.

Elbow bursitis

Irritation and inflammation in your elbow joint can cause a painful large lump to appear on your elbow and cause a condition called Olecranon (elbow) bursitis.

According to doctors from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, elbow bursitis can be caused by prolonged pressure, infection of the elbow, or medication. Your elbow bursa (a fluid-filled sac in your elbow) is found in the loose skin at your pointy elbow bone. A buildup of fluid from the irritation causes a large painful swelling in the elbow. The fluid-filled lump may grow large enough to affect elbow motion.12

You should see a doctor if you have a large swollen lump on your elbow that doesn’t go away. Your doctor will examine your elbow to recommend the best way to get rid of the elbow lump.

Erythema

Infection or medications can cause a skin reaction called erythema which causes a rash of small red raised itchy spots on your elbows as well as on other skin areas. As well as itchy red spots, erythema can cause headaches, sores inside your mouth, aching joints, and sensitivity to light.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the itchy bumps caused by erythema usually appear on the elbows, palms, hands, feet and knees.27

In order to treat erythema properly, it’s important to identify what triggers the itchy bumpy skin rash. You should visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Ganglion cyst causes painful bump on elbow

A ganglion on your elbow will cause a painful bump that could cause an elbow lump ranging in size from a pea to the size of a golf ball.

Doctors from the National Health Service say that ganglion lumps occur near joints or tendons. Ganglions feel like soft lumps under the skin.13 Although ganglion cysts generally affect the wrist joint, they can also affect your elbow. The Journal of Medical Case Reports reported about a woman who had a ganglion cyst on her elbow that also caused nerve pain.14

Lyme disease and signs of round red rash on elbow

A red circular rash on your elbow that gradually gets larger could be caused by Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is transmitted by tick bites and a red rash will appear on your elbow if an infected tick bites the middle part of your arm. According to doctors from the National Health Service, other symptoms of Lyme disease are fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain and fatigue.15

Other Causes of Bumps on Elbows

There are other reasons for noticing itchy bumps or a red rash around your elbow.

Poison ivy rash

If your elbow comes into contact with poison ivy or poison oak, you could develop a red patch of skin that swells. According to Dr. Steven Doerr on MedicineNet, poison ivy rashes cause skin blistering that is also very itchy.16

Boils

A skin infection on your elbow could cause a large red boil to appear that is tender to touch. Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet explains that the symptoms of boils are a firm red lump that is filled with pus, swollen skin around the bump, and pus may ooze from the boil.17

In my article on how to get rid of boils you can find home remedies that you should start using as soon as you notice a boil developing on your elbow or any other body part, including what to do if the boil is opening and draining.

Insect bites on your elbow

An insect bite on your elbow could cause a swollen bump that is red and itchy. Dr. William Blahd on WebMD says that an allergic skin reaction to a spider bite or bee sting can cause swelling and redness. If the reaction is severe, it could cause a swollen lump from your elbow to your shoulder.18

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The Best Home Remedies to Treat Bumps on Elbows Naturally

If you have bumps on your elbows caused by dermatological conditions, many home remedies will help to get rid of the bumps or soothe any discomfort that the bumps are causing.

Here are some of the best ways to treat elbow bumps naturally.

Coconut oil with tea tree oil to treat bumps on elbow

A mixture of virgin coconut oil and tea tree oil can help to treat bumps on the elbow caused by eczema, psoriasis, or hives.

According to the journal Dermatitis, coconut oil has antibacterial properties that also moisturize and soothe atopic dermatitis (eczema). It was found that applying coconut oil to skin affected by eczema can also help to prevent secondary skin infections.19

By adding tea tree oil to the coconut oil, you can also help to reduce swelling, redness, and inflamed skin around your elbow. The British Journal of Dermatology reported that tea tree oil helps to reduce histamine-induced skin inflammation.20

How to use coconut oil and tea tree oil for skin rashes:

To use coconut oil to help get rid of bumpy skin rashes on your elbow, this is what you should do:

  1. Mix 2-3 drops of tea tree oil with 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil to create a soothing ointment.
  2. Apply the coconut oil mixture to the rash on your elbow to moisturize the dry, scaly skin.
  3. Use 2-3 times a day until the symptoms of your skin rash have gone.

Apple cider vinegar to get rid of itchy elbow rash

Use raw unprocessed apple cider vinegar to get rid of bumps on your elbow rash, soothe itching, and kill off germs and bacteria.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a natural remedy that is effective for itchy skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, hives, and insect bites. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, acetic acid (apple cider vinegar has high levels of acetic acid) can be used to relieve itching in various dry skin conditions.21

Apple cider vinegar can also help to prevent skin infections caused by scratching because it is a natural antiseptic.

How to use apple cider vinegar for elbow rashes:

To use ACV to soothe skin rashes on your elbow and get rid of any bacterial infection from your skin, this is what you should do:

  1. Mix equal amounts of raw apple cider vinegar and water.
  2. Using a cotton ball, apply the diluted apple cider vinegar solution to the itchy patch of skin on your elbow.
  3. Repeat 2 times a day on your elbow to help prevent itching and reduce inflammation.
  4. Moisturize your skin afterward by applying a little coconut oil or olive oil.

Oatmeal compress to soothe sore bumps on elbow

An oatmeal compress can help to soothe red sore inflamed bumps on your elbow.

Oatmeal is used to reduce inflammation of many skin disorders including eczema, poison ivy rashes, psoriasis, and insect bites.

According to the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, oatmeal contains moisturizing compounds that help to gently cleanse the skin. Studies into the therapeutic properties of oatmeal have found that it also puts a protective barrier on the skin and promotes healing.22

How to make an oatmeal compress for sore bumps:

It is very easy to make your own oatmeal compress at home to help treat clusters of sore bumps on your elbow. This is what you should do:

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  1. Grind a cup of oatmeal to make a fine powder.
  2. Mix enough cool water with the oatmeal to make a thick paste.
  3. Apply the oatmeal remedy to the bumpy rash on your elbow to help reduce inflammation and discomfort.
  4. Use 1-2 times a day until the rash has gone from your elbow.

Aloe vera to treat elbow bumps

You can apply aloe vera to the irritated bumpy skin on your elbow to help repair damaged skin and get rid of itching. Aloe vera is a very common topical application for various skin conditions and can relieve a wide variety of skin irritations.

For example, a study into the using aloe vera for inflammatory skin conditions found that it helps to treat and soothe the symptoms of eczema. The researchers concluded that aloe vera can be used as a natural remedy for the long-term management of eczema.23

How to use aloe vera for elbow bumps:

The easiest way to use aloe vera to treat itchy bumps on your elbow is to buy aloe vera gel with as few added ingredients as possible. This is how to use the aloe vera remedy to soothe irritated skin:

  1. Gently apply aloe vera gel to the red patch of itchy, scaly skin on your elbow.
  2. Use 2-3 times a day until the bumps or rash on your elbow are gone and no longer cause irritation.

Witch hazel for relief from red rash on elbow

Use witch hazel to get rid of a red rash on your elbow that is causing discomfort and irritation.

Witch hazel is a natural astringent liquid with antiseptic properties. Witch hazel can help to treat various dermatological disorders because of its antimicrobial properties. A study from Germany found that witch hazel extracts also help to hydrate dry skin, provide a protective barrier on the skin, and destroy bacteria that colonize infected skin.24

How to use witch hazel:

All you need to reduce redness, pain, and irritation in a rash on your elbow is to apply witch hazel directly to your skin. This is what you should do:

  1. Soak a cotton ball in 100% pure witch hazel.
  2. Apply the witch hazel remedy to the patch of bumpy red skin on your elbow.
  3. Use 2-3 times a day to promote skin healing and get rid of the elbow bumps quickly.

Calendula

Calendula is a natural remedy for treating clusters of bumps that have formed a rash on your elbow.

Calendula is also called pot marigold and it is a plant that has many soothing properties. Research into the medicinal use of calendula has revealed it can help treat inflammatory skin disorders.

For example, the Brazilian Journal of Microbiology reported that calendula extracts help to reduce inflammation in skin wounds. It was also found that calendula can help to treat various fungal infections that can also affect the skin.25

To use calendula to treat bumps on your elbow naturally, you should buy calendula cream that contains at least 10% plant extract. Apply to the affected area of skin on your elbow 2-3 times a day until you no longer have a skin rash.

Baking Soda

A baking soda paste can help to get rid of rashes on your elbow caused by psoriasis, eczema, hives or insect bites.

A study into the benefits of using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) for inflamed skin found that its properties help to suppress itching. For example, baking soda remedies can help to get relief from the symptoms of psoriasis. In fact, baking soda skin treatments were just as effective as some anti-inflammatory drugs.26

How to use baking soda:

To make a quick, cheap, and effective remedy at home to treat irritating red bumpy skin on your elbow, this is all you have to do:

  1. Mix a little water with a tablespoon of baking soda.
  2. Pat the paste onto the affected patch of skin on your elbow and leave for 15-20 minutes to relieve irritation.
  3. Rinse off, dry your elbow, and apply a natural moisturizer to help protect your skin and speed up healing.

When to See a Doctor for Bumps on Elbows

Usually, getting rid of itchy, red bumps on your elbow is a matter of finding the best natural remedy for your condition. This is especially true if dermatological conditions like eczema, psoriasis, scabies, or hives are causing bumps around your elbow.

However, if the lump on your elbow is due to problems with your elbow joints or tendons, you should see a doctor. Sometimes a ganglion cyst or elbow bursitis on your elbow may not cause any pain or discomfort. If the large bump causes pain and interferes with your daily activities, a doctor can recommend the best course of treatment.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. HopkinsMedicine. Dermatitis herpetiformis.
  2. AOCD. Dermatitis herpetiformis.
  3. AAD. Atopic dermatitis.
  4. WebMD. Common skin rashes.
  5. Psoriasis. Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease.
  6. WebMD. Understanding psoriasis – the basics.
  7. MayoClinic. Heat rash.
  8. MedicineNet. Heat rash.
  9. Salisbury. Hives.
  10. MayoClinic. Granuloma annulare.
  11. MedicineNet. Scabies.
  12. OrthoInfo. Elbow (olecranon) bursitis.
  13. NHS. Ganglion.
  14. J Med Case Reports. 2008; 2: 122.
  15. NHS. Lyme disease.
  16. MedicineNet. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac.
  17. MedicineNet. Boils (skin abscesses)
  18. WebMD. Insect bites and stings and spider bites.
  19. 2008 Nov-Dec;19(6):308-15.
  20. Br J Dermatol.2002 Dec;147(6):1212-7.
  21. CMAJ. 2004 Nov 23; 171(11): 1339–1341.
  22. J Drugs Dermatol. 2012 Jul;11(7):804-807.
  23. ResearchGate. A study for the topical treatment of atopic dermatitis.
  24. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd.2002 Jun;9(3):153-9.
  25. Braz J Microbiol. 2008 Jan/Mar;39(1).
  26. J Dermatolog Treat.2005 Feb;16(1):26-30.
  27. Erythema
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