What is an Abdominal Lipoma?
An abdominal lipoma is a slow growing lump of fat between the skin and the underlying muscles. They are classified under tumors (benign growths or tumors of fatty tissue), but they are usually not harmful. Lipomas can occur on any part of the body, but are mostly found in the neck, shoulders, back, abdomen, arms and thighs.
Signs and Symptoms of Abdominal Lipoma
Abdominal lipomas are the most common type of tumor to form under the skin. The cause of lipomas is usually not clear, but it is mostly found to run in families. It is more common in middle aged men and women around the age group of 50 to 60 years. They also typically form after an injury and are more common in alcoholic men.
Lipomas are characteristically distinct from other skin tumors and mostly presents as a soft swelling under the skin. They are usually very small in size, typically less than 2 inches or 5 centimeters in diameter and feel doughy on touch. They are mobile in nature (easily movable under the fingers) and have a pale look, and grow slowly in size over time.
An abdominal lipoma is mostly painless and in case of pain one should visit their doctor because it could be a case of liposarcoma, which is a malignant condition and grows rapidly. Lipomas can also hurt only when they have pressed against nerves or have blood vessels running through them. In either of the cases a visit to a doctor is recommended, who will be able to diagnose the lump and prevent from further complications. Sometimes, lipomas may also form inside the body, in muscles and internal organs that may lead to pain and discomfort in the muscles; they may also need to be removed as soon as possible.
Diagnosis of Abdominal Lipoma
The diagnosis of abdominal lipoma is usually based on the symptoms and a physical examination conducted by a doctor. The abdominal lipoma symptoms will clearly indicate a lipoma and the physical examination confirms the diagnosis. It is only when the condition is painful one may be advised to undergo further tests.
A tissue biopsy can also be done where a small sample of tissue may be sent to a lab for examination. Other imaging tests such as an X-ray, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT scan are also performed when the abdominal lipoma is unusually large in size and appears to be deeper than the normally situated lipoma.
Other similar conditions such as liposarcomas should be ruled out that are cancerous and rapidly growing in nature. They can be diagnosed on the basis of detailed history and other invasive techniques of imaging and a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of Abdominal Lipoma
Abdominal lipomas do not usually require any treatment as they are not harmful. In most of the cases the doctor may ask you to leave them alone without any treatment. You are; however, asked to look for any changes in the appearance and any vague symptoms that present with time. The only cases where abdominal lipomas need to be removed are when they are painful or growing in size. A doctor will advise the appropriate treatment after conducting the required tests.
You can be advised to get abdominal lipomas surgically removed where they will be cut out under antibiotic cover. The advantage of surgical removal is that recurrences are uncommon after it. As a result of surgery there is scarring and bruising of the skin. It can also be removed by a technique known as minimal excision extraction where scarring is minimized. Another technique that is used is liposuction where with the use of a needle and a large syringe the fat is removed. This technique is less invasive and does not cause scarring of the skin.
Self-examination of any swelling over time is necessary as there may be recurrence of abdominal lipomas. Regular visits to a doctor and paying attention to changes in the skin may help prevent from complications in the long run.
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