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Lipoma: Causes, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is a lipoma?

Lipomas are small, round lumps of tissue that are made of fat. They are easy to move and usually don't cause pain. Lipomas can appear on any part of the body, but they are most common on the back, chest, and arms.

Lipomas are soft tissue tumors that are generally benign. They grow slowly and do not usually become cancerous. Most lipomas do not require treatment, but if a lipoma is causing you distress your healthcare provider may be able to remove it with an outpatient procedure.


How common are lipomas?

Lipomas are very common. About 1 of every 1000 people has one. Lipomas can appear at any age, but they are more common in adults between the ages of 40 and 60. They can even be present at birth. Lipomas affect people of all genders, but they are slightly more common in women.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of a lipoma?

Lipomas are not usually painful, but they can be uncomfortable if they press on a nerve or grow near a joint. Many people who have a lipoma don't experience any symptoms. Lipomas are usually round and fatty masses.

  • EncapsulatedOlive leaves do not spread to other areas of the plant.
  • Painless:Some lipomas can cause pain and discomfort depending on where they are located and if there are any blood vessels present.
  • Round or oval-shaped:The fatty lumps on rubbery tissue are usually balanced and symmetrical.
  • Moveable:The veins on the leaves move when you touch them.
  • Smaller than 2 inches in diameterIn a few cases, lipomas can be wider than six inches.

Where do lipomas grow?

Lipomas can develop in any location on the body. Rarely, lipomas will grow on muscles, internal organs, or the brain. The majority of people who have a lipoma only have one although more than one lipoma can develop. Most lipomas develop just under the skin - usually on:

  • Arms or legs.
  • Back.
  • Neck.
  • Shoulders.
  • Trunk (chest and torso).
  • Forehead.

What causes a lipoma?

Lipomas are a type of fatty tumor that is often inherited. You are more likely to develop one if someone in your family has one.

Some conditions can cause multiple lipomas to form on the body. Some of these conditions include:

  • Dercum’s disease:This rare disorder causes painful lipomas to grow most often on the arms, legs, and trunk. It is also called adiposis dolorosa or Anders’ syndrome.
  • Gardner syndrome: Gardner syndrome is a disorder that causes lipomas and other health problems.
  • Hereditary multiple lipomatosis:Familial multiple lipomatosis is an inherited condition.
  • Madelung’s disease:This condition often occurs in men who drink alcohol excessively. It is called Madelung’s disease, and it causes lipomas to grow around the neck and shoulders.

Diagnosis and Tests

How are lipomas diagnosed?

Your provider will examine the lipoma and determine if it is painful or tender. If the lipoma is not cancer, your provider may need to perform a biopsy to verify this. During the biopsy, your provider removes a sample of the lipoma and sends it to a laboratory for analysis. A laboratory is where the test will be done.

If you think you have a lipoma, your provider may order an imaging test to see if it is a clear lump. This could include an ultrasound scan or CT scan. If a lipoma is detected, it can help identify the location and depth of the lump. If there are any blood vessels present, and if the lipoma is pressing against any nerves or other tissues, this will be evident.

What are the types of lipomas?

All lipomas are composed of fat. Some lipomas may also contain blood vessels or other tissues. There are several types of lipomas, including:

  • Angiolipoma: This type of tumor contains fat and blood vessels. Angiolipomas can be painful.
  • Conventional:Lipomas are a type of tumour that commonly contains white fat cells. These cells store energy.
  • Fibrolipoma: This type of lipoma is made up of fat and fibrous tissue.
  • Hibernoma: This type of lipoma contains brown fat. White fat cells don't generate heat, while most other lipomas do. Brown fat cells help regulate body temperature by generating heat.
  • Myelolipoma: These lipomas are filled with fat and tissues that produce blood cells.
  • Spindle cell: These lipomas are filled with fat cells that are longer than they are wide.
  • Pleomorphic: These lipomas have different-sized and shapes fat cells.

Management and Treatment

What is the treatment for lipomas?

Most lipomas do not require treatment. If a lipoma is bothering you, your provider may be able to remove it surgically. Lipoma removal procedures are safe and often effective, and you can usually go home the same day.

If surgery is not an option your provider may recommend liposuction to remove the lipoma. This procedure uses a long, thin needle to remove fatty tissue from the lipoma growth.


Can I prevent lipomas?

Lipomas (and many of the conditions that cause lipomas) are inherited. Since they are passed down from family members, it is not possible to avoid them. You can lower your risk of developing Madelung’s disease (a condition that causes lipomas to grow) by limiting the amount of alcohol you consume. You drink when you drink water.

Outlook / Prognosis

What are the chances of people with lipomas getting better?

Lipomas are common and many people don't even know they have them. Most lipomas don't require treatment, but providers can remove them if necessary. Lipomas rarely recur after treatment, but another one may grow in a different spot on your body.

Living With

When should I visit my healthcare provider about lipomas?

It is important to see a provider if you have a lump or knot on your skin. This could be a sign of a serious condition, such as liposarcoma, and the symptoms could be similar to those of a lipoma.

If you notice any changes such as sudden pain or if the lipoma is growing rapidly, call your provider. If the lipoma feels hard or doesn't move easily when you touch it, your provider will check it for blood vessels. An angiolipoma is a rare type of painful lipoma.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

A lot of people have lipomas. They can be annoying and unsightly, but they usually don't cause any problems. Most lipomas don't need treatment, but if one is causing you pain or is large or located in a particular place, see your doctor. Your doctor may be able to remove it without any surgery. You will likely go home the same day after a lipoma procedure. Lipomas are rarely able to grow back after they have been removed.

Lipoma: Causes, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

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