What is a Lipoma

What is a Lipoma? I am glad you asked!

Lipoma on forearm what is ipoma
Lipoma on Forearm  (Source: Wikipedia)

A lipoma is a benign growth containing fatty cells that usually develops under the skin but can also develop in non-visible areas within the body. People may experience one lipoma in their lifetime, while others will experience many over the course of their lives. Lipomas can develop at any age; however, they are most commonly seen in adulthood and middle-life (40-60). Lipomas can appear on both men and women and they are thought to have some hereditary links as they sometimes run in families (eg. Lipomatosis is a related genetically inherited condition where 100’s of lipomas can develop all over the body).

We do not know the exact cause of why lipomas appear, but they have been associated with locations in the body where previous trauma has occurred. For example, if you get a hard blow to the skin through sports or accident, some can develop a lipoma in that traumatized area. Also, many believe that lifestyle, diet, exercise, stress, infections all play some (potential major) role in activating genes to form lipomas. The exact science is very scattered and I will be adding some references to scientific articles to this page in time and updating LipomaNET with the latest scientific advancements in the field of lipoma research.

Lipomas grow very slowly and usually develop over a number of years. They appear as dome or egg-shape structures and can span several centimeters in diameter (See figure top right of a Lipoma on the forearm). They feel smooth and soft to touch and some can have a more “rubbery” feel to them. Lipomas can appear anywhere on and in the body where there is fatty tissue but they are most commonly seen to appear on the trunk, arms, neck and shoulders.

Lipomas usually do not associate with symptoms, however, in some cases they can be painful and restrict movement or block bodily functions. This happens as they grow and put pressure on adjacent structures like blood vessels, nerves, organs and muscles tissue. The pressure they exert of surrounding structures is often what causes the pain for larger lipomas. Small lipomas can also be painful and it is not clear what causes this pain and often an issue of debate with medical experts and insurance companies as lipoma removal surgery is sometimes not covered by insurance as some insurers deem it to be cosmetic and not health issue related.

Lipomas can be removed any number of ways and the most common is surgery. Liposuction, steroid injection, collagenase injection (experimental), nutraceutical treatment (experimental), water fasting and even natural remedies have been used to combat the onset and appearance lipomas.

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Are Lipomas Common?

Are Lipomas Common?

Lipoma’s are very common and occur in 1-2 out of every 100 people on earth. That’s 1-2% of the population which equals about 70-140 million people who will experience lipoma lumps at some stage of their lives. For someone that is newly diagnosed with lipoma, the idea could be scary, but rest assured that Lipoma lumps are very common and in most cases harmless.

Lipomas can appear on any part of the body and they generally appear in clusters called “Lipoma Clusters”. So this means that if you have one lipoma, chances are more will appear in that area of the body. But lipoma growths can also appear randomly through the body and the most common placed where lipomas can be found are the torso, arms, upper thighs, back and neck.

Sometimes a person may experience just one lipoma that grows quite large in size. Other people may experience smaller lipomas, but a larger number of the growths. There is no predictable pattern, and the growths vary from one person to the next.

Fortunately, lipoma growths are benign, and they are simply fatty cell deposits most commonly found under the skin. Fibrous sacks are developed by the body, which starts to fill with fatty substances, growing over time and increasing in size. Experts are not certain of the exact cause of lipoma growths, but many attribute this condition to genetic factors as lipomas can run in the family.

Lipomas are often harmless and slow growing. People can live with these fatty deposits under the skin without any issues. Some lipomas can be a health concern however as they can become infected or cause blockages and pain as they grow. Its also important to note that many that have lipomas may not even know it. Lipomas can be quite small and remain un-noticed for years or even a lifetime.

The best way to treat and prevent lipoma’s is to adjust your diet accordingly and to make some lifestyle changes as well as take some basic supplements that will help your body with fat and nutrient distribution. These natural “holistic” treatments have been praised by many experts and suggested to reduce lipoma size and prevent additional lipoma lumps from forming.

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Preparing For A Doctors Appointment

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 11.01.28 AMLipoma is a condition that usually occurs in individuals of all ages. However, patients diagnosed with this disease should not worry that much. Lipoma is a condition that commonly does not require treatment. It is not a life threatening disease and it commonly consists of small lumps formed below the skin. Still, it is important to know that there can be cases in which a lipoma requires medical intervention.

In case you are going to see a doctor for this condition, it is advisable to prepare yourself for the appointment. Commonly, you will first have to make a visit to a general practitioner or your family doctor. The doctor will send you to a specialist in skin disorders. This specialist will most likely start by asking you what are the symptoms experienced. If you want to be certain that you will mention them all, without forgetting any, it is advisable to write down these symptoms before the appointment.

After being sure that you noted all symptoms, you should make a list of the medications you are currently taking. Vitamins and supplements should be included here, as well. Make sure that you mentioned them all, as it is quite important for the specialist to be aware of your medication regimen.

In case you have any questions you may want to ask the specialist, you should write them down. This way you can be sure that you will remember everything you wanted to find out. Some of the main things you should consider asking the specialist include:

  • What is the cause of the growth?
  • Can it be cancerous?
  • Are there any additional tests required to trace the cause of the lumps?
  • Is a medical intervention necessary for removal?
  • Are there any risks?

You will have questions for your doctor, but you should also expect to be asked a lot of things by the specialist. Most likely, he/she will ask you when you noticed the lump for the first time, if it has grown since, if you have experienced similar growths in the past, if the lump is painful and if there is a history with lipoma in your family.

Be extremely careful as your answers can help the specialist determine a course of action which will impact your life. Ask everything you want to know and be positive that you understood all recommendations. In most cases, lipoma can be removed through surgical removal, even though in a wide number of situations surgery is not even necessary.

Lipoma Categories And Surgical Techniques

Lipoma on forearm what is ipoma
Lipoma on Forearm – Source: Wikipedia

Lipomas are known as fat tissue under skin, but they are biochemically different from normal fat, having increased levels of lipoprotein lipase and many precursor cells. The majority of lipomas feature clonal alterations, involving a breakpoint on band 12q13-15. Generally, no fatalities were reported with lipomas, but mild tenderness is occasionally associated with them. These fatty tissue occur at any age, but are rare in infants and children.

Lipomas are classified in categories such as:

  • diffuse congenital lipomatosis are localized mainly on the trunk and tumors can get through muscle fibers; are made of immature fat cells
  • familial multiple lipomatosis are well-demarcated, encapsulated lipomas, affecting the extremities
  • benign symmetric lipomatosis (Madelung disease) include lipomas of the head, neck, proximal upper extremities and also shoulders; other conditions associated with these lipomas are malignant tumors of the upper airways, hyperuricemia,peripheral neuropathy, obesity, renal tubular acidosis and liver disorders
  • Dercum disease (adiposis dolorosa) that involves painful lipomas
  • hibernomas refer to solitary well-circumscribed nodules, asymptomatic, located in the axxilae, neck, mediastinum or interscapular region
  • solitary lipomas are small, superficial and develop with weight gain
  • angiolipomas are soft, tender and subcutaneous nodules, sometimes firmer than ordinary lipomas; usually, they emerge during teenage

Details about lipomas:

  • rubbery consistence
  • they can be lobulated
  • are subcutaneous nodules of about 2-10 cm
  • the skin overlying them is normal and there are no connections to the tumor
  • the most affected parts of the body are neck, back and proximal extremities also

In case there are suspicions of cancer, the only solution to find the answer is through CT scanning, ultrasonography and biopsy. The main surgical techniques are:

    • simple surgical excision of lipomas by dissecting the mass from the surrounding fat tissue
    • squeeze technique, used for superficial and small lipomas
    • liposuction

Your doctor will decide which is the most suitable and less risky technique for you after he will examine you and after medical test results.

Frequently Asked Questions About Lipoma

Lipomas are masses of fatty tissue formed below the skin. Numerous people develop lipomas and they can be diagnosed in people of all ages. However, it is important to know that a lipoma is almost never serious health concern. Lipomas are non-cancerous tumors. They are usually not life-threatening. You must consult you doctor if you suspect a lipoma or any lump under your skin for that matter.

If you want to learn more about lipomas, you should know that here you can find a list of the most frequently asked questions about this condition and all the right answers. By reading them you will find out everything there is to know about this disease.


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1. What is a lipoma?

Naturally, this is the most frequently asked question about this disease. A lipoma is a type of fatty tissue that is formed below the skin. Lipomas can be found in any part of the body, although they are most commonly traced on the trunk, neck and armpits. As already mentioned, lipomas can be developed by people of all ages. However, they are most commonly found in patients aged between 40 and 60.

2. What are the symptoms of lipoma?

In most cases, lipomas have no symptoms at all. Still, they can cause severe pain, although in rare situations. When a lipoma is painful, it will most likely have to be removed. As lipomas usually cause no symptoms, it can take years until these tumors are traced.

3. What causes lipoma?

What causes lipoma is without a doubt the hardest question to answer. Actually, specialists have not been able to determine an exact cause of this condition. There are some risk factors that may favor the development of lipoma. They include physical trauma, genetic and hereditary causes, as well as obesity. As lipomas are fatty tissues, they may be caused by an improper diet.

4. How to treat a lipoma?

As already mentioned, lipomas do not cause complications, so they will most likely require no treatment at all. However, there are cases in which treatment can be required. In such situations, doctors will recommend patients which type of treatment to undergo. Lipomas can either be removed through surgery or treated with herbal cures.


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If you have been diagnosed with a lipoma, you should not be that worried. This is not a life threatening condition and the chances to develop a type of complication due to it are extremely low.