Round skin lesions and what they mean

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Common types of round skin lesions


A macule is a small discoloration on the skin that is flat and distinct and less than 1 centimeter in diameter. It does not cause a change in skin texture or thickness. Macules can only be noticed visually and can take a variety of shapes, including round.


A papule is a raised area of skin with no visible fluid. They are usually 1 centimeter or smaller in diameter. They have distinct borders and come in a variety of shapes.


A nodule is an elevated bump or lump on the skin that is larger than a papule (larger than 1 centimeter in diameter). It may occur in all layers of the skin including the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous tissue. It can take on a variety of shapes.


A tumor is a solid mass on the skin or subcutaneous tissue (under the skin). It is firm and usually larger than 2 centimeters. It can appear in many different shapes.


A vesicle is a raised bump less than 1 centimeter in diameter filled with air or clear liquid. It can be a round bump or more uneven in shape.


Bullae are fluid-filled sacs that form when fluid is trapped under a thin layer of skin. They are similar to blisters and vesicles except for bullae are larger than 1 centimeter in diameter.


A pustule is a small round or organically shaped bump on the skin that contains pus. They are commonly infected but not always, as in the case of pustular psoriasis.


A wheal is a red, swollen mark that is often itchy and changes shape. They usually occur in response to a stimulus like a bug bite or food allergies. They are also known as welts or hives. Wheals are often rounded and have flat tops.

Read More: Early melanoma symptoms and how to spot them

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Common skin conditions that could be the cause

Naevi (moles)

Naevi, the technical term for moles, are commonly raised or flat spots that occur on the skin genetically and as a result of sun exposure. They are formed when melanocyte cells (the cells that give our skin pigment) grow in a group rather than individually. Most moles are benign, but they can also develop into skin cancer.

Harmless moles will have:

  • neat edges,
  • a smooth or dome-like shape
  • are around ¼ inch (6 mm) in diameter
  • and stay the same shape, size or color over time.

 Cancerous moles have a few common warning signs. Look for these indicators that your mole may be cancerous:

  • A change in size (getting larger)
  • A change in shape (especially with irregular edges
  • A change in color (especially getting darker or exhibiting multiple shades
  • A loss of symmetry (common moles will be perfectly round or oval and are usually symmetrical
  • Itchiness, pain or bleeding (maybe even forming a scab
  • Crustines
  • Inflammatio
  • Exhibiting three different shades of brown or blac
  • A change in elevation (thickening or raising of a flat mole)Round skin lesions and what they mean 1


Acne is an extremely common skin condition that can range from mild to severe. The condition usually presents itself as skin bumps that often become red or swollen. Acne can also take the form of whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, cysts, and nodules. Severe acne can leave scars if not treated in time. There are many acne treatments available ranging from topical products to prescription medication, a doctor or dermatologist should be consulted to find the appropriate treatment.


Hives are a rash of red bumps that occur suddenly on the skin usually as a result of an allergen. They usually last for hours or a few days before subsiding. Hives are very common and can show up anywhere on the body, even moving around, disappearing and reappearing over a matter of hours. Treatments are directed at the symptoms until the hives can clear up on their own. Usually, antihistamines are recommended.

Read More: The color of your skin mole


Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition that causes red, itchy and dry skin as a result of inflammation. Sometimes white patches or spots can form within a red rash. This condition is typically found in children but can continue into adulthood. Eczema symptoms include dry, scaly, thickened skin that is almost always itchy. Especially among darker-skinned people, eczema can cause skin discoloration, making the affected area lighter or darker than the surrounding skin.

The cause of eczema is unknown but it is thought to be linked to allergies and asthma and is suspected to be an overactive immune response to an irritant.  While there is no cure for the condition, symptoms can be managed. For many people, eczema will even go away over time. Doctors can prescribe topical corticosteroid creams and ointments, oral medications and light therapy to help ease symptoms.


Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes tiny red pimples and redness of the skin. It typically only occurs on the face and it is common for small blood vessels to appear on the surface of the skin. Rosacea often starts with a tendency to blush or flush easily. The condition can also make skin thick and cause acne-like breakouts. It is treated with topical ointments, antibiotics, lasers, and other light treatments.


Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that causes red, scaly and itchy plaques to form on the skin. It is caused by skin cells multiplying faster than normal. Psoriasis can also take the form of small red spots, pus-filled bumps, as red patches that feel sore or as skin that becomes bright red and appears burnt. It often occurs on the knees, elbow, and scalp, and, although it is incurable, it usually responds well to treatment.  Treatments include topical creams, medicines, ultraviolet light treatments and more.


Impetigo is a contagious bacterial infection of the skin. It is more common in children than adults and is caused by the Staphylococcus (staph) and Streptococcus bacteria. Impetigo presents itself as small red spots that morph to blisters which can eventually break open and ooze fluid. Sores may also be crusty and can range in size from the size of a freckle to larger than a coin. Impetigo is usually treated with antibiotics, in the form of pills or an ointment.


Warts are small benign tumors that are caused by one of over 100 types of human papillomaviruses (HPV). Warts are often contagious and can be spread through physical contact. There are many different types of warts that can occur on the body.

Common warts usually grow on fingers, nails and the back of hands. They usually appear as domed, rough bumps. Contact a doctor to identify which type of wart you have and to advise a course of treatment. Warts will often disappear on their own but they can also be treated by a dermatologist or doctor.

The most common treatment is cryotherapy, or the freezing off of warts. Excision, electrosurgery, and curettage are other treatment options.

Skin cancer

There are many different kinds of skin cancer, separated into non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and the least dangerous, usually appearing as a small lump that gets bigger over time.

Squamous cell carcinoma is less common but faster spreading. It usually presents itself as rough, scaly plaques that can bleed easily. Melanoma is the rarest and most dangerous form of skin cancer, typically developing from a new mole on the body. Skin cancer treatments range widely based on the type, severity, and health of the patient. Any suspicious marks should be checked out by a doctor or dermatologist early.

Learn more about skin cancer symptoms.

Click here for pictures of melanoma examples

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"The melanoma could have been on my arm for years"
Andrew Bartlett
United Kingdom
"The melanoma could have been on my arm for years"
Andrew Bartlett
United Kingdom

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