What Are Fat Deposits?


Fat deposits formed between the muscle and skin are called lipomas. They can develop at any age, but are usually recognized in the late 30s and 40s. Lipomas usually appear in the abdominal region, neck, legs and arms. They are small, soft, benign tumors underneath the skin, usually about one inch in diameter. Most lipomas are painless, but can cause pain if they grow near nerves or blood vessels. These fat deposits are removed via surgery, liposuction or steroids.


Contrary to popular presumptions, fat deposits are not formed by obesity. High cholesterol and lack of exercise have been linked to fat deposits, but this hasn't been clinically proven. Heredity is the main cause of lipomas. Lipomatosis is a particular hereditary disease that generates fat deposits. In lipomatosis, trauma or blunt force to any body part can result in lipomas. Adiposis dolorosa is a similar disease that produces painful lipomas.


Lipomas are small lumps under the skin. They are soft to touch, and usually painless. Larger lipomas that cause pain are located near nerves or blood vessels. They are irritated at touch and turn red. To confirm the presence of a lipoma, it is best to go to a doctor.


Doctors can easily diagnose harmless fatty deposits by doing a physical exam or a biopsy to check the tissue sample in a lab. However, fat deposits immersed deeper in muscle have to be checked by an ultrasound or an MRI.

Treatment and Medicine

Most fat deposits do not have to be removed, as they are benign. But if the lipoma is in a place that agitates you, it can be removed by liposuction, surgery or shrunken by steroids. A lipoma is removed surgically under local anesthesia. A small incision is made and the fat deposit is extracted. Recurrences are rare and there is little risk in this surgery. Liposuction is successful in removing small lipomas, but is unable to remove a large lipoma. Steroids injected into the lipoma can shrink it, but cannot remove it.

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