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What is a Lipoma?

A lipoma is a fatty, dome shaped lump that usually feels like soft tissue below the surface of your skin, caused by an overgrowth of fat cells. They are not dangerous. The lump will move easily when you touch it and it will not normally cause any pain. They are usually small, and you may get more than one.

Lipomas can be found on many different parts of the body, including on your thighs, bottom, chest, arms, back or shoulders - wherever there are fat cells.

They can also grow deep inside your body, again these are usually harmless, but in rare cases, they can press on nerves or organs, causing other symptoms.

A lipoma can develop at any time in your life, although they are more common in older people.

They are, in most cases, nothing to worry about and usually do not need to be treated. However, if you have a lipoma and it changes or you notice new lumps, you should speak to a doctor.

Lipoma symptoms

Most lipomas develop just under the skin. Things to look out for include:

  • Slow growing soft, dome-shaped lumps
  • The lumps can vary in size but are usually less than 5cm wide
  • If you press the lump, it may move slightly
  • They are usually painless, but in rare cases, you may experience some pain

If the lipoma develops deep in your body, you will not notice it unless it is pressing on an organ or nerve, causing other symptoms.

Should you see a GP about a lipoma?

It can be distressing to find a lump on your body, but in the majority of cases, they turn out to be harmless. However, you should still seek medical advice if you find a new lump or bump to rule out anything serious.

If the lump is painful, red or hot to touch, or if it is hard and does not move when you press it, you should always see a GP, as this may be a sign of an infection that will need treating, usually with antibiotics.

In order for a doctor to determine if your lump is a lipoma, they will usually just need to examine it.

There may be times that a doctor will not be able to diagnose a lipoma simply by looking at it. In this case, you may be referred for a scan of the lump to check what kind it is. Or sometimes, a biopsy may be necessary, where a of part of the lump is removed for further testing.

You should let the doctor know if you have noticed any changes in the lump, how long you have had it or if you have developed lumps anywhere else on your body.

If the lipoma is unsightly and is making you feel self-conscious, it can be removed by a small operation, which is usually done under local anaesthetic. This is usually the only reason they are removed.

Lipoma causes

The cause of lipoma is not fully known, but there are certain things that are thought to make people more susceptible to developing them, these include:

  • Age - although you can develop a lipoma at any age, they are more common among people of 40 to 60 years of age. It is rare for a lipoma to develop in children.
  • Existing condition - some medical conditions can make you more at risk of developing a lipoma. 
  • Genetics - lipomas can run in families, so if someone you are related to has one, you are more likely to develop one.

Lipoma treatment

Lipoma surgery is not usually necessary, as the lumps do not tend to pose a risk to your health. However, there are a number of reasons that a doctor may advise that removal of the lump is best for you. These include if:

  • They are not sure if it is a lipoma (removal will allow for tests, so they can be certain)
  • The lipoma is large, getting bigger or causing you pain
  • It is causing problems, such as pressing on a nerve
  • You want it removed for cosmetic reasons

How can Push Doctor help?

You can see a GP online in minutes with Push Doctor. They can look at the affected area over video camera and recommend your next steps. Appointments are available 7 days a week.