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Macule vs. Papule: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 27, 2023
A macule is a flat, distinct, discolored area of skin less than 1cm wide, while a papule is a small, raised, solid pimple or swelling, often forming part of a rash.

Key Differences

Macules are flat, distinct areas of skin discoloration, often noticed as spots or patches. They differ from papules, which are raised, palpable, and often felt as small bumps on the skin.
Macules can vary in color, often being red, brown, or white, and are not raised above the skin surface, unlike papules which are elevated and can be felt when touched.
Common causes of macules include freckles and flat moles, while papules may result from conditions like acne or allergic reactions, presenting as small, raised lesions.
In terms of size, macules are generally less than 1 centimeter across. Papules, while also small (often less than 1 cm), are characterized by their elevation above the skin's surface.
Treatment and significance of macules depend on their cause, ranging from benign freckles to more serious conditions like melanoma. Papules may require treatment if they result from acne, infections, or inflammatory diseases.

Comparison Chart


Flat and discolored
Raised and solid


Generally less than 1 cm
Often less than 1 cm


Not palpable above skin surface
Palpable, can be felt as bumps

Common Causes

Freckles, flat moles
Acne, allergic reactions


Varies by cause
Often requires medical treatment

Macule and Papule Definitions


A flat, discolored spot on the skin.
The macule on her arm turned out to be a harmless freckle.


A small, raised, solid bump on the skin.
She felt a papule on her neck, likely from an allergic reaction.


A change in skin color without elevation.
The macule was not palpable but clearly visible.


A raised area often less than 1 centimeter across.
A small papule had formed on his chin, resembling acne.


A spot less than 1 centimeter in diameter.
A small, white macule was visible on her cheek.


A pimple-like skin elevation.
He noticed a new papule had appeared overnight.


A non-raised skin change.
He noticed a red macule appearing on his wrist.


A bump often forming part of a rash.
The papules were spread across her arms, indicating a rash.


A distinct area of discoloration.
The dermatologist examined the brown macule for signs of change.


A palpable skin lesion.
The doctor identified several papules on his back.


Variant of mackle.


A small, solid, usually inflammatory elevation of the skin that does not contain pus.


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


A blurred or double impression in printing.


Same as Papula.


To blur or double (a printed impression).


A small inflamed elevation of skin that is nonsuppurative (as in chicken pox)


To become blurred.


A spot.


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 spot.


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


What is a papule?

A small, raised bump on the skin.

Are macules always harmful?

Not always, they can be benign like freckles.

Can papules be a sign of a serious condition?

Sometimes, especially if associated with other symptoms.

What is a macule?

A flat, discolored area on the skin.

Are papules itchy?

They can be, depending on the cause.

What does a papule feel like?

A palpable, raised bump.

Do macules change in size?

They can, particularly if related to medical conditions.

How can I identify a macule?

Look for flat, discolored spots.

What leads to the formation of papules?

Causes include acne, infections, or allergic reactions.

Can macules become papules?

Not typically, as they are different types of skin lesions.

What is the best way to treat papules?

Treatment varies based on the underlying cause.

Do papules always require treatment?

Treatment depends on the cause and severity.

How are macules diagnosed?

Through visual examination and sometimes biopsy.

Do macules itch?

Generally, no, as they are not raised.

Can papules be prevented?

In some cases, by avoiding triggers like allergens or irritants.

What causes macules?

Various factors, including sun exposure, genetics, or skin conditions.

Can macules indicate skin cancer?

In some cases, yes, especially if they change in appearance.

Are papules contagious?

Some can be, if caused by infectious agents.

How long do papules last?

Duration varies, depending on the cause.

Can makeup cover macules?

Yes, they can often be covered with makeup.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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