A lipoma is a benign skin condition in which a fatty lump develops between the skin and the underlying layer of muscle. Lipomas are typically harmless and do not require treatment unless they become bothersome or large. The condition can occur anywhere on the body but is most often seen on the neck, torso, arms, and legs.

Lipoma Symptoms

Lipomas normally measure only a couple of inches in diameter. They are easily moveable and feel doughy to the touch. Lipomas are generally not painful unless they contain numerous blood vessels or press on a nearby nerve. It is possible to develop multiple lipomas on various parts of the body.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of lipomas is not known. The condition does tend to run in families, so genetics may be one factor in their development. The condition is most often seen in adults between the ages of 40 and 60 and rarely occurs in children. Certain medical conditions, including Garner’s syndrome, Cowden’s syndrome, and adiposis dolorosa are associated with a higher risk of developing multiple lipomas.

Treatment for Lipomas

Although lipomas are not a serious condition, anyone developing unusual swelling or lumps should consult their doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

It is not necessary to treat a lipoma unless it grows, becomes painful or otherwise bothersome. The most common treatment is surgical removal. Lipomas that are cut out rarely recur. As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of bruising and scarring. A less invasive surgical technique called minimal excision extraction can reduce the risk of scarring. Steroid injections into the lipoma may reduce its size but will not get rid of it completely. There are studies underway to evaluate the effectiveness of using steroid injections prior to surgical extraction. Liposuction using a needle and syringe may also be used to remove the excess fat.