Is a Lipoma Dangerous?

Pure Dermatology
August 1, 2023

Any unusual lump or bump under your skin is bound to cause some concern. But if it’s a benign growth like a lipoma, there’s usually nothing to worry about. However, prompt evaluation is still important to ensure it’s a lipoma and not something else.

A Lipoma is a common type of fatty tumor that forms under your skin. While the term “tumor” sounds scary, the fact is that most lipomas are harmless — but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to ignore them.

At Pure Dermatology in Austin, Texas, Christopher Chu, MD, FAAD, and Chelsey Straight, MD, FAAD, use advanced techniques to diagnose lipomas and differentiate them from other types of tumors. In this post, we explain what lipomas are, why they form, and when a lipoma requires medical treatment.

Quick facts about lipomas

Lipomas affect at least 1% of people, although researchers say that number may be much higher. Slow-growing and painless, lipomas tend to be soft and even squishy-feeling compared to other types of tumors that are firmer to the touch.

Lipomas can range in size from a few millimeters to several inches in diameter. Most appear on the arms, thighs, abdomen, back, or neck, but they can occur in other areas, too. Lipomas don’t affect the skin itself, and the skin over a lipoma appears normal.

Researchers don’t know for sure why lipomas form, although they think there’s a genetic link, which means if you have family members with lipomas, you may be more likely to develop them as well.  

Lipomas may also form following a trauma, particularly if fat cells are injured or destroyed, or they might be triggered by factors like obesity, alcohol abuse, glucose intolerance, or liver problems.

When to seek medical treatment

If you have a squishy, mobile lump under your skin and you’ve never received a diagnosis, call our office so we can evaluate it. It’s never safe to assume that a lump is a harmless lipoma simply based on the symptoms or signs you can observe.

During your evaluation, we determine whether that lump is, in fact, a benign lipoma, or if it could be another issue, such as liposarcoma, a type of cancerous tumor that causes similar symptoms. Liposarcomas are less common than lipomas, but they do require immediate treatment to prevent serious and even life-threatening complications.

If we determine you have a lipoma, typically no treatment is necessary unless the lipoma is causing discomfort or interfering with normal movement. If the lipoma is very visible, you might decide to treat it for cosmetic reasons.

You should also call the office right away if you notice any changes in your lipoma, like redness, warmth, or pain, or if your lipoma changes in size or texture.

Don’t ignore lumps and bumps

Bottom line: While lipomas typically don’t pose any dangers to your health, you should have any new or growing lump or bump medically evaluated, just to be safe.

If you think you might have a lipoma or if you notice a new or changing lump, call 512-766-2610 or book an appointment online with the team at Pure Dermatology today.