Lipomas are fatty lumps that usually appear just beneath your skin. Several different medical conditions have been linked to the development of these common tumors, without any specific cause identified as of July 2011. Despite consisting of an overgrowth of fatty tissue, lipomas appear unrelated to triglyceride levels in your bloodstream or high-fat diets.
Lipomas usually appear as a small bump or swelling under the skin, feel soft and movable and occur in up to 1 percent of people, according to Patient.co.uk. They can be solitary or multiple, and are found most frequently on the shoulders, chest, back, upper arms and legs. Lipomas may also occasionally be painful, quite large or occur deep inside your body. When viewed under a microscope, a typical lipoma consists mostly of fatty tissue that looks just like fatty tissue from anywhere else in your body. These benign tumors will not go away unless surgically removed, but generally do not continue increasing in size after they first appear.
Risk Factors for Lipomas
What causes you to develop a lipoma is largely unknown, but they are seen more frequently with certain medical conditions. Lipomas occur more often in overweight than slender people, diabetics and those who have a history of lipomas in their family. Rare hereditary conditions can also lead to lipomas, including one called lipomatosis in which large numbers of these tumors develop all over the body. Lipomas occasionally increase in size during times of rapid weight gain, but don’t shrink during starvation or other causes of rapid weight loss, indicating the fat contained within them is not part of your regular dietary or triglyceride metabolism. The fact that 50 to 80 percent of lipomas have chromosomal changes characteristic of true tumors further supports this conclusion, as reported in “Enzinger and Weiss’s Soft Tissue Tumors.”
Triglycerides are a form of fat used by your body to store excess calories from your diet. They circulate in your bloodstream as a form of lipid and energy transport, and can be stored in fat cells for future use. As with cholesterol, triglycerides appear to contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, and its complications, which include heart attacks, strokes and other vascular diseases. High triglyceride levels are frequently seen in some conditions associated with lipoma development such as obesity and diabetes, but are not considered a cause or risk factor for lipomas.
Lipomas and Triglycerides
Small lipomas found beneath your skin rarely require treatment unless they become painful, unsightly, continue to enlarge or cause other symptoms. Treatment usually consists of simple minor surgery to remove the entire lump. Although triglycerides are not recognized as either a cause or treatment of lipomas, lowering your blood triglyceride levels by losing weight, following a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help decrease your risk of developing more serious heart and vascular diseases.
- Patient.co.uk: Lipoma
- “Enzinger and Weiss’s Soft Tissue Tumors, Fourth Ed.”; Sharon W. Weiss, John R. Goldblum; 2001