What are the Differences Between a Cyst and a Lipoma?

Health Education
March 13, 2023
2 min read
What are the Differences Between a Cyst and a Lipoma?

Two words patients never want to hear are cancer and tumor. Thankfully, most tumors are benign. Such is the case with lipomas. A lipoma is a fatty, usually non-cancerous tumor that lies just beneath the skin. Lipomas are slow-growing, fatty lumps between the skin and a layer of muscle just beneath. A lipoma can feel doughy to the touch, and it can move slightly from the smallest amount of applied pressure.

Cysts can also lie just beneath the skin. They can appear on bones, organs, tissues, and in any part of the body. Like lipomas, cysts are often benign. They are oily sacs that can grow and swell. Cysts are usually not tender to the touch.

Lipoma Causes

Lipomas are a common skin condition. They usually appear on men and women between the ages of 40 and 60. However, an individual of any age can be affected by them. About 1 in every 1,000 people develop a lipoma in their lifetime.

Usually smaller than two inches in diameter, lipomas are round or oval-shaped lumps beneath the surface of the skin. They can be unsightly, but are rarely harmful. It’s still somewhat of a medical mystery what causes a lipoma. However, there appears to be some genetic significance to them. 

Lipomas tend to be hereditary. They also sometimes appear after an injury. People who have a family history of Dercum’s disease, Gardner syndrome, hereditary multiple lipomatosis, or Madelung’s disease are more prone to lipomas. 

Some lipomas contain blood vessels called angiolipomas. These are rubbery, benign tumors that develop in young adults (mainly men) aged 20-30. Most commonly found on the forearms, angiolipomas are painful to the touch.

Should You Consider Removing A Lipoma

Though benign lipomas rarely pose a medical threat, they can sometimes be painful. 

If you believe you have a lipoma or cyst, you may choose to have it surgically removed. Whether for cosmetic reasons or for comfort, these harmless blights can grow larger and are therefore often removed. 

When enlarged, cysts and lipomas can settle and press on the body’s tender nerves. This can cause significant pain or irritation. Laser surgery is usually the best route to remove a lipoma or cyst. One alternative to cyst or lipoma removal is drainage. When injected with steroids, swelling is reduced.

Another route to remove certain lipomas is liposuction. This technique uses a needle and syringe to remove fatty lumps. However, this is not considered the best removal technique. Lipoma removal via liposuction is not always complete. Post surgery, if any fatty tissue remains beneath the surface, a recursion can occur. This happens more frequently with liposuction removal than other surgical techniques. 

Self-Care for Cysts and Lipomas

Lipomas most commonly appearing on the back, shoulders, torso, arms, thighs, or neck. A lipoma or cyst should be left alone as much as possible. They can be tender to the touch, but it is best not to poke, prod, or play with these fatty lumps. Though usually not harmful, if you suspect you have a lipoma or cyst, seek medical attention. Though often benign, there are the rare cases where lipomas and cysts can be cancerous. A physician will examine the area and prescribe the best course of action. 

The staff at BASS Medical is here to help if you require care for any skin-related issue or condition. The medical staff's surgeons have experience performing skin lesion and laser surgeries. Contact our team right away so we can talk about your medical needs and the finest solutions.