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What is a Lipoma and How Likely Are You to Develop One

What is a Lipoma and How Likely Are You to Develop One

Popular reality TV shows like Dr. Pimple Popper and Dr. Mercy have not only captured our attention, but have shed some light on lipomas, a common, yet not well-known, skin condition that can be debilitating.

A lipoma is a slow-growing, noncancerous, fatty lump of overgrown fat cells that most often sits between the skin and muscle layer. People of all ages can develop a lipoma, but those between the ages of 40 and 60 years old are most likely to develop one. Lipomas are typically painless and can occur anywhere on the body, but are most often found in the neck, shoulder, back, arms, thighs and abdomen. In some cases, lipomas can affect joints, nerves, blood vessels and internal organs.

Lipomas are generally:

  • Soft to the touch
  • Slow growing
  • Easily moved with your fingers
  • Colorless
  • Situated just under the skin

A lipoma is rarely a serious medical condition, but any lump needs to be examined by a doctor. Large or painful lipomas may require an ultrasound, MRI or CT scan to determine the best course of treatment. Removal of a lipoma may be necessary if it’s large and fast growing, interferes with normal body functions, causes pain or discomfort, or causes distress for cosmetic reasons.

The cause of lipomas is unknown, but research suggests that lipomas can develop in an area where an injury or trauma has occurred. People suffering with multiple lipomas have often inherited a gene from their parents that causes growth of one or more fatty tumors. Lipomas can occur more frequently in people with Gardner’s and Cowden syndrome, Madelung’s disease and adiposis dolorosa. Other risk factors include obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and liver disease.

See your doctor if you have a lump that becomes painful, gets larger or changes in any way. You can’t reduce the size of a lipoma at home, so see a doctor to discuss any concerns about the removal of a lipoma.