A lipoma is a small mass of fat tissue that grows between skin and muscle. They may be caused by other conditions, but researchers are unsure exactly why they form. The most common treatment is surgical removal.
A lipoma is a slow growing soft mass of fat (adipose) cells that are typically found between the skin and underlying muscle in the:
They are generally small — less than two inches in diameter. They are soft to the touch and will move with finger pressure. Lipomas are not cancer. Since they pose no threat, there is usually no reason for treatment.
The most followed treatment for getting rid of a lipoma is surgical removal. Typically this is an in-office procedure and requires only local anesthetic.
Your doctor might also talk to you about alternatives such as:
- Liposuction. “Vacuuming” out the lipoma typically doesn’t remove it all, and the remainder grows back slowly.
- Steroid injection. This may shrink but usually doesn’t fully remove the lipoma.
Although there is not clinical evidence to back up their claims, some natural healers suggest that lipomas can be cured with certain plant- and herb-based treatments such as:
- Thuja occidentalis (white cedar tree). A
2013 studyconcluded that Thuja occidentalis helped eradicate warts. Advocates of natural healing suggest that it could also be effective on lipoma.
- Boswellia serrata (Indian frankincense). A
2013 review of clinical studiesindicated the potential for boswellia as an anti-inflammatory agent. Practitioners of natural healing suggest that it could also be effective on lipoma.
There is no medical consensus on the cause of lipomas, but it is believed that genetic factors might be a factor in their development. You are more likely to have a lipomas if you:
- are between 40 and 60 years old
- are obese
- have high cholesterol
- have diabetes
- have glucose intolerance
- have liver disease
Lipomas can occur more frequently if you have a medical condition such as:
- adiposis dolorosa
- Gardner’s syndrome
- Madelung’s disease
- Cowden syndrome
Whenever you notice a strange lump on your body, you should head to your doctor for a diagnosis. It might turn out to be a harmless lipoma, but there is always a chance that it could be an indication of a more serious condition.
It could be a cancerous liposarcoma. This is usually faster growing than a lipoma and painful.
Other symptoms that should be discussed with your doctor include:
- level of pain
- increases in size of lump
- lump starts feeling warm/hot
- lump becomes hard or immovable
- additional skin changes
Since lipomas are benign fatty tumors, they are typically harmless and do not require treatment. If a lipoma is bothering you for medical or cosmetic reasons, your doctor can surgically remove it.