Macule vs. Papule: Know the Difference
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on November 8, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Flat, no elevation above the skin surface
Raised, creating a bump above the skin surface
Same as surrounding skin
Firm or solid upon touch
Generally larger than papules
Usually less than 1 cm in diameter
Color change without skin thickening
Involves thickening or infiltration of the dermis
Freckles, flat moles, vitiligo
Acne, insect bites, some dermatitis
Macule and Papule Definitions
A non-palpable area of skin change.
After sun exposure, macules appeared on her arms.
A small, raised, solid pimple or swelling.
She felt a small papule on her chin, signaling the start of an acne breakout.
A flat, discolored spot on the skin.
The dermatologist noted several brown macules on the patient's back.
A palpable, elevated lesion.
The doctor examined a papule on the patient's arm to determine if it was an insect bite.
A change in skin color without elevation.
Macules of lighter skin tone were indicative of vitiligo.
An elevation of the skin with no visible fluid inside.
Dermatitis was evident from the papules scattered across his torso.
Variant of mackle.
A raised area caused by inflammation or infection.
Each papule on her leg was from a mosquito bite from the hike.
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.
A bump on the skin less than 1 cm in diameter.
A cluster of red papules was present in the area of the rash.
A blurred or double impression in printing.
A small, solid, usually inflammatory elevation of the skin that does not contain pus.
To blur or double (a printed impression).
A small, inflammatory, irritated spot on the skin, similar in appearance to a pimple, but not containing pus.
To become blurred.
Same as Papula.
A small inflamed elevation of skin that is nonsuppurative (as in chicken pox)
A blur or an appearance of a double impression, as when the paper slips a little during printing.
(printing) To blur or be blurred; especially to blur or double an impression from type.
A blur, or an appearance of a double impression, as when the paper slips a little; a mackle.
To blur; especially (Print.), to blur or double an impression from type. See Mackle.
A patch of skin that is discolored but not usually elevated; caused by various diseases
Distinct areas of discoloration without thickness.
He had a macule on his cheek that was diagnosed as a flat mole.
Patches of skin differing in pigmentation from adjacent areas.
Macules from healed lesions left a patchy appearance.
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.
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.
Are macules raised?
No, macules are not raised; they are flat spots on the skin.
Can macules change color over time?
Yes, macules can change color, especially with sun exposure or changes in skin condition.
How are macules different from patches?
Macules are smaller than patches; patches are flat spots larger than 1 centimeter.
Are birthmarks considered macules?
Some birthmarks are macules if they are flat and smaller than 1 centimeter.
Do macules itch?
Macules usually do not itch, but they may be associated with a disease that causes itching.
What causes papules to form?
Papules form due to inflammation or a skin disease, such as eczema, psoriasis, or acne.
Are freckles macules?
Yes, freckles are a type of macule.
Can macules be cancerous?
While most macules are benign, some, like certain types of melanoma, can be cancerous.
Can papules be a sign of infection?
Yes, papules can result from infections, inflammatory conditions, or allergic reactions.
Can papules go away on their own?
Some papules, like those from acne, can resolve on their own, while others may require treatment.
Are papules the same as pimples?
Pimples are a type of papule associated with acne.
Are papules contagious?
Papules themselves are not contagious, but if they are caused by an infectious agent, that may be contagious.
How do you treat macules?
Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may not be necessary for benign macules.
Do papules itch?
Papules may or may not itch, depending on the cause.
What is a papule?
A papule is a small, raised, solid bump on the skin that's less than 1 centimeter in diameter.
How are papules different from nodules?
Papules are smaller and less deep than nodules, which are larger, deeper, and often more solid.
How do you treat papules?
Treatment varies and can include topical medications, oral drugs, or other therapies targeting the underlying cause.
Can papules turn into other lesions?
Yes, papules can sometimes evolve into pustules, vesicles, or even plaques.
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Written byShumaila 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.