What causes painful fatty tissue growths and how can I treat them?

Symptom Database

Have you ever noticed painful lumps under your skin? These could be painful fatty tissue growths known as lipomas. Lipomas are subcutaneous adipose tissue, which means they are made up of fat cells that accumulate just beneath the skin. While lipomas are usually harmless, they can cause discomfort and pain. In this article, we will explore what causes these painful fatty tissue growths and discuss various treatment options.

Understanding Lipomas

Lipomas are non-cancerous growths that develop slowly under the skin. They are commonly found on the neck, shoulders, back, abdomen, arms, and thighs. Lipomas feel like soft, rubbery lumps that move easily when touched. These growths can vary in size, ranging from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter.

Causes of Lipomas

The exact cause of lipomas is still unknown. However, there are several factors that may contribute to their development:

  • Genetics: Lipomas can run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition.
  • Age: Lipomas are more common in middle-aged adults, although they can occur at any age.
  • Obesity: Excess body weight and obesity have been linked to an increased risk of developing lipomas.
  • Hormonal imbalances: Some studies suggest that hormonal imbalances may play a role in the formation of lipomas.

Symptoms of Lipomas

Lipomas are usually painless, but in some cases, they can cause discomfort or pain. The pain may be more pronounced if the lipoma presses against nerves or other sensitive structures. Other symptoms of lipomas include:

  • Soft, rubbery lumps under the skin
  • Lumps that are easily movable
  • Lumps that grow slowly over time
  • Visible swelling or bulging of the skin

Treatment Options for Lipomas

Most lipomas do not require treatment unless they cause pain or affect your quality of life. However, if you wish to have a lipoma removed, there are several options available:

1. Surgical Removal

Surgical removal is the most common treatment for lipomas. During the procedure, a dermatologist or surgeon will make an incision and remove the lipoma. This is typically done under local anesthesia, and the recovery time is minimal.

2. Liposuction

Liposuction can be used to remove larger lipomas. This procedure involves inserting a thin tube called a cannula into the lipoma and suctioning out the fatty tissue. Liposuction may leave a smaller scar compared to surgical removal.

3. Steroid Injections

Steroid injections can help shrink lipomas and reduce pain. This treatment involves injecting a corticosteroid medication directly into the lipoma. Multiple injections may be required over several weeks to achieve the desired results.

4. Natural Remedies

While there is limited scientific evidence to support their effectiveness, some natural remedies may help reduce the size of lipomas or alleviate symptoms. These include:

  • Applying apple cider vinegar: Soaking a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and applying it to the lipoma may help reduce its size.
  • Using chickweed ointment: Chickweed ointment, available at health food stores, is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with lipoma symptoms.
  • Consuming turmeric: Turmeric, a spice known for its anti-inflammatory properties, may help reduce inflammation associated with lipomas.

It is important to note that natural remedies should be used with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

When to See a Doctor

While lipomas are generally harmless, it is advisable to consult a doctor if you notice any changes in the size, shape, or appearance of a lipoma. Additionally, seek medical attention if a lipoma becomes painful or causes discomfort.

A healthcare professional can examine the lipoma and determine the best course of action. They may recommend monitoring the lipoma for changes, performing imaging tests to rule out other conditions, or discussing treatment options.


Painful fatty tissue growths, or lipomas, can be a source of discomfort and concern. While the exact cause of lipomas is unknown, factors such as genetics, age, obesity, and hormonal imbalances may contribute to their development. Most lipomas do not require treatment, but if they cause pain or affect your quality of life, surgical removal, liposuction, steroid injections, or natural remedies may be considered. It is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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