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Lipoma: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments and Prevention

Lipoma is a harmless tumor that affects one in every 1,000 people. It usually occurs when a lump of fat begins to grow between the skin and muscle layer. Lipomas are the most common form of soft tissue tumor formed under the skin. Lipomas grow slowly for months or even for years. About 20% of people with a history of one lipoma are at increased risk of developing another.


What is Lipoma?

Lipoma is a painless, soft, rubbery, fatty lump under the skin, which can move a bit with slight finger pressure. Lipoma is very common between the ages of 40 and 60 years.

A lipoma can develop in any part of the body, but is mostly developed in:

  • Upper back
  • Armpits
  • Buttocks
  • Upper thighs
  • Shoulders
  • Arms

Types of Lipomas:

Based on the way of appearance lipomas are of the following types they are:

  • Conventional lipomas are very common, white fat mass
  • Hibernoma is a rare, non-cancerous brown fatty mass
  • Fibrolipoma is benign (non-cancerous) lipoma with a large amount of fat and fibrous tissues
  • Angiolipoma is a rare form of lipoma that causes pain and is associated with blood vessels
  • Myelolipoma is a rare condition, associated with fat cells and tissue that are responsible for the formation of blood cells
  • Spindle cell lipomas are painless, non-cancerous tumours of fat cells and spindle cells
  • Pleomorphic lipomas are a type of lipoma that contains fat cells with different sizes and shapes
  • Atypical lipomas are non-cancerous tumours formed from the deeper fat cells

What Causes Lipoma?

The exact cause of Lipoma is still unknown, but the doctor believes that having a family history of lipoma increases the risk.

Having certain genetic conditions tends to develop lipoma, this include:

  • Gardner syndrome (a condition that causes non-cancerous tumors in the colon)
  • Cowden syndrome (a condition characterized by non-cancerous tumours that increases the risk of certain cancers)
  • Adiposis dolorosa (a painful condition due to the growth of multiple non-cancerous tumours)
  • Madelung’s disease (a rare condition usually seen in alcoholic men due to an unusual buildup of fat)
  • Familial multiple lipomatosis (a rare condition due to multiple lipomas)

What are the Symptoms of Lipoma?

Lipomas usually have distinct features and rarely cause pain. However, a lipoma patient may experience pain if the lipoma causes pressure on the nerves. Lipoma is usually:

  • Soft and doughy to touch
  • Can move slightly if pressed with a finger
  • Grows slowly

Risk Factors for Lipoma:

Factors that increase the risk of lipoma include:

  • Obesity is increased amount of fat in the body. Lipoma is usually made of fat if there is more amount of fat in the body, the chance of developing a lipoma is also high.
  • A trauma or an injury to the skin or any part of the body increases the risk of lipoma.
  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes and liver diseases have great influence on the distribution of macro-nutrients and storage that significantly increases the risk of lipoma.

Complications of Lipoma:

Lipoma if left untreated may lead to certain complications, such as:

  • Wound infection
  • Seroma (accumulation of fluid under the skin)
  • Hematoma (formation of blood clot outside the blood vessel)
  • Nerve injury
  • Hemorrhage (abnormal blood flow due to ruptured blood vessel)
  • Keloid (An abnormal growth of scar after an injury)

Diagnosis of Lipoma:

The doctor initiates the diagnosis by reviewing the family history, medical history and signs and symptoms of the patient. The doctor performs a physical examination to check the overall health status of the patient. In a physical examination the doctor collects the information regarding the:

  • Symptoms and intensity of pain
  • Medication history
  • Medical and surgical history

In most of the lipomas a physical examination is enough for diagnosing. In physical examination the lipomas are palpated as movable, soft, rubbery, and unusual lump. The doctor recommends further diagnostic tests when palpitation is unable to diagnose lipoma developed in the deeper layers of the skin.


A biopsy is performed by administrating local anesthesia to numb the area. The sample is collected by using a sterilized needle and is examined under a microscope. The lipoma appears with too much mature fat cell.


X-rays are non-invasive diagnostic procedures, which uses rays for capturing the images of internal organs of the body. In lipoma, a plain X-ray reveals the prominent shadow of a soft tissue tumour (lipoma).

Computed tomography (CT) scan:

A CT scan is a painless diagnostic procedure that uses a narrow beam of X-ray for capturing the detailed images of the internal organs. In lipoma, a CT scan shows a detailed image of fatty mass.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):

MRI is the most common diagnostic procedure for lipoma. An MRI creates detailed images of the soft tissues and helps in revealing the lipoma in a detailed way. In most of the cases doctors will confirm the diagnosis by performing MRI.

Treatment for Lipoma:

Lipomas are usually harmless, and they do not require treatment. However, if the lipoma is painful, then the treatment is recommended. The treatment is initiated based on:

  • The size
  • Number of skin tumours
  • History of skin cancer
  • The family history of skin cancer


Surgery is the most common treatment approach for removing the lipoma. It is performed if the patients have large and painful tumours that are still growing. Lipomas rarely recur once they are surgically removed.


Liposuction is usually performed under the influence of local anesthesia. It removes the fatty lump by using a needle attached to the syringe. Lipomas are fat-based, so the doctor recommends liposuction. Liposuction is usually recommended in the treatment of large lipomas. The risk of recurrence is more with liposuction.

Steroid injections:

Steroid injections are directly administered in the affected area to shrink the fatty lump completely.

Prevention of Lipoma:

Lipomas can be prevented by following certain measures, such as:

  • Doing regular exercise
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining healthy body weight
  • Avoiding consumption of alcohol


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