A lipoma is a benign lump that forms under the skin, which is usually made from fatty tissue. Lipomas usually grow slowly and are situated between the skin and the underlying muscle layer.
Lipomas are more common in middle age, most commonly appearing on the upper back, shoulders and abdomen. They are normally painless.
What causes a lipoma?
The cause of lipomas is unknown. It is believed that lipomas may be genetic, so if your parents or other members of the family have or have had lipomas at some point, then you may also be prone to developing them. Lipomas can also appear as a result of a injury, though the reason why is unknown.
What are the symptoms of a lipoma?
Lipomas are typically painless, but they can cause some pain if they are situated somewhere where they press on nearby nerves. Lipomas appear as soft doughy lumps, ranging in size from around that of a pea to as big as a grapefruit. These lumps may move slightly if pressed. People of any age can develop lipomas, but they are more prevalent in adults aged between 40 and 60.
People with the following conditions are more at risk of developing one or more lipomas:
Lipomas usually don't cause any problems if they are simply left alone, however they can be treated if required - for example, if the patient fights them unsightly. The most common way of treating lipomas is to have them removed surgically. Usually a dermatologist, surgeon, or a plastic surgeon can perform these procedures.
In surgery, an incision to remove the fatty tissue is made, before suturing the opening. Although uncommon, sometimes after surgery, the lipoma may return.
The size of the lipoma may be reduced in another way, through liposuction, where a needle is used to remove some of the fat from within the lipoma.
One other way to treat the lipoma is through using steroid injections. The steroid injection works to shrink the lipoma, although it should be noted that this treatment doesn’t completely remove the lipoma.