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Macule vs. Papule: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
A macule is a flat, distinct, colored area of the skin, while a papule is a small, raised, solid pimple or swelling, often forming part of a rash.
Macule vs. Papule

Key Differences

Macules are flat spots on the skin that differ in color from the surrounding area, typically not raised or associated with changes in skin texture. Papules are elevated lesions that can be felt on palpation, indicating a change in both color and texture.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023
A macule represents changes in skin color without elevation or depression relative to the skin surface and can be of various shapes and sizes. Papules are usually less than 1 cm in diameter and can merge to form a plateau-like elevation above the skin.
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The etiology of macules can range from benign freckles to more serious conditions like melanoma, while papules can indicate a range of issues, including allergic reactions, infection, or inflammatory diseases.
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Nov 08, 2023
In terms of palpation, macules will feel no different from the surrounding skin aside from temperature changes due to inflammation, but papules will be felt as small bumps, indicative of underlying skin pathology.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023
Clinically, macules are observed in conditions like vitiligo or port-wine stains, which are flat and do not involve thickening of the skin. Papules are seen in conditions like acne or dermatitis, where there is an elevation due to tissue infiltration in the dermis.
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Nov 08, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Elevation

Flat, no elevation above the skin surface
Raised, creating a bump above the skin surface
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Texture

Same as surrounding skin
Firm or solid upon touch
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Size

Generally larger than papules
Usually less than 1 cm in diameter
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Pathology

Color change without skin thickening
Involves thickening or infiltration of the dermis
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Nov 08, 2023

Examples

Freckles, flat moles, vitiligo
Acne, insect bites, some dermatitis
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Macule and Papule Definitions

Macule

A non-palpable area of skin change.
After sun exposure, macules appeared on her arms.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

Papule

A small, raised, solid pimple or swelling.
She felt a small papule on her chin, signaling the start of an acne breakout.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

Macule

A flat, discolored spot on the skin.
The dermatologist noted several brown macules on the patient's back.
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Nov 08, 2023

Papule

A palpable, elevated lesion.
The doctor examined a papule on the patient's arm to determine if it was an insect bite.
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Nov 08, 2023

Macule

A change in skin color without elevation.
Macules of lighter skin tone were indicative of vitiligo.
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Nov 08, 2023
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Papule

An elevation of the skin with no visible fluid inside.
Dermatitis was evident from the papules scattered across his torso.
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Macule

Variant of mackle.
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Oct 19, 2023

Papule

A raised area caused by inflammation or infection.
Each papule on her leg was from a mosquito bite from the hike.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

Macule

A discolored spot or area on the skin that is not elevated above the surface and is characteristic of certain conditions, such as smallpox, purpura, or roseola. Also called macula.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Papule

A bump on the skin less than 1 cm in diameter.
A cluster of red papules was present in the area of the rash.
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Nov 08, 2023

Macule

A blurred or double impression in printing.
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Oct 19, 2023

Papule

A small, solid, usually inflammatory elevation of the skin that does not contain pus.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Macule

To blur or double (a printed impression).
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Oct 19, 2023

Papule

A small, inflammatory, irritated spot on the skin, similar in appearance to a pimple, but not containing pus.
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Oct 19, 2023

Macule

To become blurred.
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Oct 19, 2023

Papule

Same as Papula.
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Oct 19, 2023

Macule

A spot.
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Oct 19, 2023

Papule

A small inflamed elevation of skin that is nonsuppurative (as in chicken pox)
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Oct 19, 2023

Macule

A blur or an appearance of a double impression, as when the paper slips a little during printing.
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Oct 19, 2023

Macule

(printing) To blur or be blurred; especially to blur or double an impression from type.
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Oct 19, 2023

Macule

A spot.
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Oct 19, 2023

Macule

A blur, or an appearance of a double impression, as when the paper slips a little; a mackle.
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Oct 19, 2023

Macule

To blur; especially (Print.), to blur or double an impression from type. See Mackle.
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Oct 19, 2023

Macule

A patch of skin that is discolored but not usually elevated; caused by various diseases
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Oct 19, 2023

Macule

Distinct areas of discoloration without thickness.
He had a macule on his cheek that was diagnosed as a flat mole.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

Macule

Patches of skin differing in pigmentation from adjacent areas.
Macules from healed lesions left a patchy appearance.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is a macule?

A macule is a flat, distinct, colored area of skin that is less than 1 centimeter in diameter and does not involve any change in the thickness or texture of the skin.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

Can macules be a sign of a disease?

Yes, macules can be a sign of a skin condition or disease, such as vitiligo or measles.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

Are macules raised?

No, macules are not raised; they are flat spots on the skin.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

Can macules change color over time?

Yes, macules can change color, especially with sun exposure or changes in skin condition.
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Nov 08, 2023

How are macules different from patches?

Macules are smaller than patches; patches are flat spots larger than 1 centimeter.
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Are birthmarks considered macules?

Some birthmarks are macules if they are flat and smaller than 1 centimeter.
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Do macules itch?

Macules usually do not itch, but they may be associated with a disease that causes itching.
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What causes papules to form?

Papules form due to inflammation or a skin disease, such as eczema, psoriasis, or acne.
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Are freckles macules?

Yes, freckles are a type of macule.
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Nov 08, 2023

Can macules be cancerous?

While most macules are benign, some, like certain types of melanoma, can be cancerous.
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Nov 08, 2023

Can papules be a sign of infection?

Yes, papules can result from infections, inflammatory conditions, or allergic reactions.
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Nov 08, 2023

Can papules go away on their own?

Some papules, like those from acne, can resolve on their own, while others may require treatment.
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Nov 08, 2023

Are papules the same as pimples?

Pimples are a type of papule associated with acne.
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Nov 08, 2023

Are papules contagious?

Papules themselves are not contagious, but if they are caused by an infectious agent, that may be contagious.
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Nov 08, 2023

How do you treat macules?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may not be necessary for benign macules.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

Do papules itch?

Papules may or may not itch, depending on the cause.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

What is a papule?

A papule is a small, raised, solid bump on the skin that's less than 1 centimeter in diameter.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

How are papules different from nodules?

Papules are smaller and less deep than nodules, which are larger, deeper, and often more solid.
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Nov 08, 2023

How do you treat papules?

Treatment varies and can include topical medications, oral drugs, or other therapies targeting the underlying cause.
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Nov 08, 2023

Can papules turn into other lesions?

Yes, papules can sometimes evolve into pustules, vesicles, or even plaques.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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