Skin Cancer Screening

Do You Have Lumps on Your Skin? Check for Lipomas

If you have lumps on your skin that are painless and soft, you may have a lipoma. While Lipomas are tumors of fat tissue, they are harmless. Still, you'll want to visit a dermatologist to make sure the tumor isn't cancerous or something else.

People mainly remove lipomas for cosmetic reasons. However, a lipoma can cause pain if it rubs against other skin—like in the armpit—or if it is chafed by clothing. Some lipomas can become large enough to press on nerves or other tissues, so having them removed can alleviate these problems. Read on to learn what causes lipomas and how a dermatologist can help.

What Causes Lipomas?

While anyone can get a lipoma, this skin condition tends to run in families. Lipomas tend to appear more in the middle-aged population. Lipomas can also be side effects of certain medical conditions, like Madelung's disease. After a person suffers an injury, they might also develop a lipoma at the injured site.

How Can a Dermatologist Help?

First, your dermatologist will examine the lipoma and perform a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis. He or she may use imaging tests, like CT scans, to get a clearer picture of the tissue that needs to be removed. If your lipoma is benign and small, you may not care to have it removed. Instead, your dermatologist may have you monitor it instead. If the lipoma grows, causes pain, or develops a harder consistency, then your dermatologist may have you come back in for removal.

Unlike acne or other skin conditions that can heal on their own, lipomas do not go away by themselves. To remove the lipoma, your dermatologist will need to use a local anesthetic to numb the area. If the lipoma covers a large area of your skin, then you could need general anesthesia. Once the area is numb, the doctor will use a scalpel to excise fatty tissue. He or she will then close up the incision with stitches.

Some people may be concerned with scarring, and in those cases, some dermatologists may use alternative treatments, like liposuction, since they can be less invasive than lipoma excision. Protecting the area from UV light can also help you avoid scarring and hyperpigmentation.

While many lipomas won't come back, people at risk for the skin condition may see some resurface. If this is the case, they'll need to undergo lipoma removal again. The good news is that the recovery for lipoma removal is minimal. You may have a bit of soreness and need to use an antibiotic ointment, but you should be able to return to normal activities.

Reach out to your dermatologist to learn more.