When Is a Bump On the Forehead Serious? Everything to Know

Medically Reviewed By Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI
Was this helpful?
3

There are numerous causes of a bump on your forehead, including skin conditions and underlying medical conditions. Injury to the forehead can also cause a bump, which in some cases may be serious. A bump on the forehead may resolve on its own or with over-the-counter (OTC) treatments. However, some injuries can cause trauma to the brain and require emergency medical treatment. 

This article discusses the causes of a bump on the forehead and when it needs medical attention. It also explains treatment options, how doctors diagnose the cause, and more.

When is a bump on the forehead a medical emergency?

A person has a hand on their forehead.
Maskot/Getty Images

Bumps that appear after an injury — such as a fall, car accident, or sports accident — may require emergency treatment.

Some head injuries do not appear serious from the outside. However, they may severely impact the brain. 

Important symptoms that require emergency treatment include:

Learn more about brain injuries.

What can cause a bump on the forehead?

Many conditions may cause a bump on your forehead, including skin conditions, injuries, and other health conditions.

Acne

Acne occurs when your hair follicles become clogged. This may happen when your sebaceous glands produce too much sebum, an oily substance that lubricates your hair and skin. 

Excess sebum can mix with dead skin cells and block the follicle, causing a white or black bulge. Sometimes, bacteria on the skin may cause an infection in the follicles. In turn, this can create larger acne, such as:

Acne is most common during hormonal shifts, such as puberty or menstruation. Other things can also cause acne, such as using cosmetics, taking certain medications, or smoking

Learn more about acne.

Injury or trauma

A head injury can cause a painful swollen bump to form in the affected area. The bump on the forehead may initially start small and grow over several hours or days. 

A swollen bump from a head injury may resolve on its own. However, seek a medical evaluation if you experience other symptoms, such as:

Learn more about head injuries.

Insect stings or bites

Insect stings or bites can cause bumps to form on the head. These may be painful, itchy, or red and discolored.

Sizes of bites vary depending on the type of bug and how your skin reacts. Sometimes, you may have multiple bumps from several bites. 

Most bug bites go away on their own. However, if you are allergic to the biting or stinging insect, seek emergency medical care. 

Be sure to clean bug bites with soap and water to prevent infection. Do not scratch the bite, which can encourage infection. Your doctor or pharmacist may recommend an OTC cream to soothe itchiness.

To prevent bug bites and stings, experts recommend applying a DEET-based bug repellent when going outside in areas with bug activity.

Learn more about bug bites.

Cysts

Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can form anywhere in the body. Epidermoid cysts, sometimes known as sebaceous cysts, are fluid-filled sacs in the skin. These typically form on the face, neck, or torso. However, they can also form in other areas. 

Cysts are typically slow growing and may appear as white, yellow, or skin-colored bumps. Sometimes, they become inflamed. Inflamed cysts are discolored or red, tender, and warm to the touch.

Learn more about cysts. 

Lipomas

Lipomas are noncancerous growths of fatty tissue under the skin. They are typically painless and feel soft or rubbery when you touch them.

Lipomas typically grow on the torso or forearms, but they can also appear on the forehead and other areas. 

The cause of lipomas is currently unclear. However, the condition does seem to have a genetic component.

Learn more about lipomas.

What are the treatments for a bump on the forehead?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the bump.

For minor injuries, you can try applying a cold compress or ice to help reduce swelling. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), can help with pain relief.

Acne may clear up on its own. If you experience acne frequently, OTC products may help clear it up. Some types of acne may require prescription medications, such as retinoids and antibiotics.

Surgical removal is an option for some cysts and lipomas. This procedure can be for cosmetic purposes or if the lump is pressing on surrounding tissues. 

Your doctor will explain which treatments they recommend and answer any questions you may have.

When should I see a doctor?

Most bumps on the head heal on their own over a few days or weeks. However, other symptoms may indicate an infection or other complications. In these cases, seek medical care. 

Symptoms that indicate complications include the emergency symptoms listed above, along with:

  • redness or discoloration and warmth
  • discharge
  • fever

How do doctors diagnose the cause of a bump on the forehead?

To diagnose the cause of your bump, your doctor may ask about your recent symptoms and assess the area. They may also take a full medical history and ask about any medications you are currently taking.

Most bumps do not require further testing. However, if your bump results from an injury, your doctor may order additional testing to rule out internal injury. 

What should I do if I bump my forehead?

If you have a bump on your head from an injury, you should rest, apply ice, and monitor for emergency symptoms. 

If you have a bump on your head from another cause, monitor the bump for symptoms of complications, such as infection. 

Seek medical advice for unexplained bumps, bumps that don’t resolve on their own, or other symptoms alongside the bump.

Other frequently asked questions

Here are some more frequently asked questions about a bump on the forehead.

Do forehead osteomas go away?

Osteomas, which are benign growths on the bone, may go away on their own after a few years. Another option is surgery to have the osteoma removed.

Is a cancerous lump hard or soft?

Depending on the type of cancer, these lumps may feel firm or soft. It is important to contact your doctor if you have concerns about either a hard or soft lump. They will be able to carry out tests to determine the cause.

What causes a sudden lump on the forehead without injury?

A lump on the forehead without an injury may develop from various conditions. Acne, a bug bite, or other medical conditions, such as a cyst or lipoma, can all cause forehead lumps.

Summary

Bumps on the forehead may result from a head injury or various health conditions. Bumps that require emergency care typically occur after an injury. 

Signs that you need medical attention after developing a bump on the forehead include symptoms of brain injury. These include neurological changes, such as dilated pupils, vomiting, and seizures. Severe headaches are another sign to seek emergency care.

Other causes of bumps on the forehead include acne, cysts, and lipomas. Bug bites can also occur on your head and cause a small bump. 

Treating the forehead bump depends on the underlying cause. Applying ice to injuries can decrease swelling, while using OTC creams can relieve acne and bug bites. 

If you have concerns about a bump on your forehead, seek medical advice. 

Was this helpful?
3
Medical Reviewer: Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 30
View All Symptoms and Conditions Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Acne. (2019). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/acne/
  2. Dookie, A. L., et al. (2022). Osteoid osteoma. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537279/
  3. Ginsburg, J., et al. (2022). Closed head trauma. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557861/
  4. Khan, K., et al. (2019). A rare forehead mass: The chondroid syringoma. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6825454/
  5. Kolb, L., et al. (2022). Lipoma. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507906/
  6. Minor head injury. (2021). https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/injuries/head-and-neck-injuries/minor-head-injury
  7. Powers, J., et al. (2022). Insect bites. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537235/
  8. Zito, P. M, et al. (2022). Epidermoid cyst. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499974/