Lipoma

Lipoma is a term used to describe the growth of benign bumps just below the skin surface and above the muscle tissue. It consists of fat cells and looks just like a fibrous capsule. The fatty lumps grow slowly; they can be easily moved with the hand and feel doughy.

Lipoma can affect both genders and all age groups. It is however more prevalent in middle-aged adults between 40 and 60 years old, who may experience the growth of 1 or 2 lipoma bumps. Some individuals may develop the condition due to genetic causes; such people may feature lipoma growths all over the body. The occurrence rate of lipoma is 1 in every 100 people.

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It is also possible for lipoma to develop inside the body. Such lipomas are usually harmless and typically remain undiagnosed. Depending on the location, some internal lipomas may however cause health problems. For instance, lipoma growths occurring in the intestinal tract can cause bleeding, ulcer formation, obstruction, and pain.

Types of lipoma

Listed below are the different and most common kinds of lipoma:

  • Intradermal spindle cell lipoma: It is one of the most prevalent forms of lipoma and generally affects women. The head, neck, torso, and upper and lower extremities usually feature this type of lipoma.
  • Superficial subcutaneous lipoma: It is another common type of lipoma. The growths form just below the skin surface and usually affect body areas containing fat. Commonly affected areas include the torso, forearms, and thighs.
  • Angiolipoleiomyoma: It features a single, acral, fully-developed non-malignant nodule comprising of plain muscle cells, fat, connective tissues, and blood vessels. It does cause any symptoms.
  • Chondroid lipoma: The growths are deep-rooted, firm, and yellow-hued. They usually occur on the legs of women.
  • Corpus callosum lipoma: It is a rare type of lipoma which occurs from birth. They are relatively small and measure just 1 to 3 cm diametrically, but can also grow as big as 10 to 20 cm. The larger lipoma growths can weigh as much as 4 to 5 kilograms.
  • Hibernoma: It consists of brown fat.
  • Angiolipoma: This subcutaneous tumor causes pain and has all the features of a lipoma.
  • Spindle-cell lipoma: This type of lipoma is subcutaneous, slow-growing, and asymptomatic. It typically affects the neck, shoulders, and back, especially in older males.
  • Pleomorphic lipomas: This lipoma type typically affects elderly males and often occurs in the neck and back.
  • Neural fibrolipoma: It is characterized by excessive growth of fatty-fibrous tissue near the trunk of a nerve, thereby leading to elevated pressure and subsequent constriction of the nerve.

Symptoms

Some of the common signs and symptoms of lipoma are listed below:

  • It may occur as a solitary bump or as a cluster of several abnormal bumps.
  • The bumps are quite tiny and typically measure under 5 cm. Some lipoma bumps can however be bigger.
  • Sometimes, a lipoma can exert pressure on the nearby nerves. This can then result in pain.
  • The shoulders, neck, arms, back, abdomen, and thighs generally feature lipoma growths.
  • Lipoma that affects the deeper layers of the skin have a tendency to recur.
  • Sometimes, bunches of fat cells combine under the skin surface and form several abnormal fatty lumps. It is usually seen in patients with a genetic tendency to develop lipoma.

Even though lipoma is harmless and typically does not lead to any medical complications, people who develop any kind of abnormal growths on the skin need to visit a doctor to rule out the presence of any underlying malignancies.

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Causes of lipoma

  • Medical experts are not aware about the exact cause of lipoma. The non-cancerous condition however tends to pass down generations, thereby hinting at some genetic causes.
  • Obesity or being overweight usually does not cause lipoma growths in most cases.

A few risk factors which can increase the susceptibility to developing lipoma are listed below:

  • Lipoma commonly affects 40 to 60 year old adults. It rarely occurs in children.
  • Chronic alcoholism can trigger the development of benign symmetric lipomatosis, a type of lipoma.
  • Underlying occurrence of diseases like Madelung disease, Cowden syndrome, adiposis dolorosa, andGardner’s syndrome can pose increased risk to lipoma development.
  • Another type of lipoma called adiposis dolorosa is more common in obese and post-menopausal women than others. The condition is characterized by swelling, inflammation, and fatigue.

Treatment of lipoma

Lipoma is non-malignant and typically harmless. The tumors rarely become cancerous and hence treatment is often not needed. Patients may go for treatment of lipoma for cosmetic reasons, or if it keeps on growing and/or causes pain or damage to the skin.

Lipoma may be treated in the following ways:

  • Steroid injections can help reduce the size of lipoma tumors. It however does not fully remove the lipoma growths.
  • Surgical excision of lipoma tumors. It is an easy surgery that can be carried out under local anesthesia in a doctor’s office. This treatment option rarely results in a relapse, but scarring may occur.
  • Soft lipoma growths, or those containing small sections of connective tissue are removed via liposuction. The procedure is not that useful in removing big lipoma tumors.

 Lipoma Pictures

 

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