A lipoma is a growth of fat cells usually found just below the surface of the skin. The most common place for lipomas to develop are on the neck, torso, upper arms, armpits, and upper thighs; however they can occur almost anywhere on the body. Lipomas are the most common noncancerous soft tissue growth, and more than one can appear at a time. While they can cause stress to a person who has found the growth, their fears are generally put at ease once a general dermatologist diagnoses the growths as lipomas.
There is not a clear cut answer as to why lipomas develop on a person’s body, but genetics have been found to play a big role. People with a family history of lipomas will often have the same growths, but their lipomas may not develop in the same spots as they have for another family member.
Lipomas are small growths felt under the skin – typically 1 to 3 centimeters in diameter. They are moveable and have a soft consistency. Lipomas do not cause pain, and they generally remain the same size over years. For most people, the placement of a lipoma is the most bothersome symptom. For instance, a lipoma on the upper thigh is less likely to bother a person than one on the neck because the thigh is not generally exposed.
Lipomas do not require removal, but many people still opt to have them removed – again, usually based on placement. Most lipomas can be removed as an outpatient surgical procedure in a physician’s office. A local anesthetic is injected around the growth, an incision is made in the skin, the lipoma is removed, and the skin is closed with stitches. Topical cream and over the counter pain relievers are advised to help with healing and to minimize any discomfort after the procedure.
If you have found a small growth anywhere on your body, have your doctor check it out. Lipomas are common growths among all types of people from all types of medical, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Jamie Weisman, Medical Dermatology Specialists