What is it?
Lipoma is a common soft-tissue tumor found under the skin but also can appear in deeper tissues and even in various body organs, such as the heart, brain, and lung. They can vary from walnut size to that of a large baseball and usually have a soft, rubbery feel. Types of lipomas include the superficial subcutaneous lipoma, the intramuscular lipoma, the spindle cell lipoma, the angiolipoma, the benign lipoblastoma, and the lipomas of tendon sheaths, nerves, synovium, periosteum, and the lumbosacral area. The most common type is the superficial subcutaneous lipoma.
Who gets it?
• Superficial subcutaneous lipomas occur more frequently in women than men, usually on the trunk, nape of the neck, and forearms. They are found more commonly in people who are overweight, although losing weight will not make lipomas smaller.
• Deep intramuscular lipomas usually affect adults 30 to 60 years of age, with more men being affected than women. It is commonly found in the large muscles of the extremities.
• Spindle cell lipomas are seen typically in men 45 and 64 years of age in the posterior neck and shoulder areas.
• Angiolipoma lipomas are usually found in young adults, typically on the forearm.
• Lumbosacral lipomas occur in the trunk posterior to a spina bifida defect. They usually occur in infants, but can be seen in adults.
• An extremely rare variation of lipoma is diffuse lipomatosis. Symptoms include multiple superficial and deep lipomas that involve one entire extremity or the trunk and usually have their onset during the first 2 years of life.
• Benign lipoblastoma and diffuse lipoblastomatosis usually affect the extremities of infants. The lesions can be solitary or multiple and can be superficial or deep in muscle tissue.
What causes it?
No one knows why lipomas occur. Usually they are inherited.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of lipoma include soft, moveable lumps under the skin that are sometimes painful to the touch.
How is it diagnosed?
The doctor may be able to make a diagnosis of lipoma based on a visual examination of the patient. The doctor may also do a biopsy on the lesion to determine the type of lipoma.
What is the treatment?
Treatment for lipomas may not be required, however in most cases they can be surgically removed if they are very large, painful, or cosmetically unattractive. The doctor may remove them by surgical excision. Liposuction can sometimes be performed and may result in less scarring.
Sometimes it is impossible to remove a diffuse lipomatosis if the involved limb becomes massive in size. In this extreme case, amputation of the limb may be recommended.
Lipomas generally grow to a limited size and usually are not painful. Surgery to treat lipomas for cosmetic reasons is usually successful, with a recurrence rate for most lipomas at less than five percent.
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