The Facts About Fibromyalgia and Lipomas

How the disease can complicate a benign skin condition

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Do you ever feel soft, fatty lumps or bumps beneath your skin? A lot of us with fibromyalgia do. They're called lipomas, and they're non-cancerous tumors made up essentially of fat (adipose cells).

In most people, lipomas are painless and small (measuring less than a half an inch). But in others, they can be just the opposite, growing to as much as two inches in diameter and requiring pain medication to alleviate symptoms.

It is this latter condition that people with fibromyalgia frequently experience.

Lipomas in People With Fibromyalgia

Lipomas are not inherently related to fibromyalgia. They are more frequently associated with family genetics or certain diseases like Adiposis dolorosa (Decrum’s disease).

With that being said, lipomas are quite common in people with fibromyalgia, and when they do appear, the pain is almost invariably worse. This is largely related to the parts of the body where people with fibromyalgia are susceptible to excessive pain.

Lipoma may also be difficult to discern as the lumps may be confused with myofascial trigger points (contracted knots of muscle and connective tissue).

There are different types of lipoma that can develop on different parts of the body. Among them:

  • superficial subcutaneous lipoma (the most common type, distributed in all part of the body)
  • angiolipomas (painful nodules situated just below the skin)
  • chondroid lipomas (typically appearing as hard, yellow lumps on the legs of women)
  • intradermal spindle cell lipomas (seen, again, mostly in women and appearing on many different parts of the body)

Lipomas are rarely life-threatening, and superficial ones just beneath the skin are not considered a serious condition (except, perhaps, for cosmetic reasons).

They tend to grow quite slowly and will often remain the same size for years. They most often have a soft, rubbery texture but can also be quite hard at times.

The presence of multiple lipomas is known as lipomatosis.

Treating Lipomas in People With Fibromyalgia

Lipomas that don't cause pain aren't a problem and don't need to be treated. If there is minor pain, you can usually rely on a standard, over-the-counter pain medications like Motrin or Aleve.

However, if the pain is worse or worsening, speak to your doctor about treatment options. In some cases, all you may require is a prescription-strength pain reliever.

Others, meanwhile, may want to explore hydrocortisone shots or surgery. The problem with these, of course, is that they can make the fibromyalgia symptoms even worse.

Surgery is typically uncomplicated, requiring a simple excision in your doctor’s office under a local anesthetic. It generally takes around 30 minutes, and there is little chance of recurrence after the lipoma is removed. Liposuction has also been used, but that is clearly less of an option for those with fibromyalgia.

Even under the best of circumstances, recovery will likely be painful, and there is no guarantee that the removal of the lipoma will eliminate the pain.

But some people, understandably, will still undergo the procedure for cosmetic purposes, particularly if the lipoma is large and visible.

A Word From Verywell

While lipomas are common in people with fibromyalgia, don't assume that the bumps are just lipomas. Have your doctor check them out.

The same goes for lumps in fibrocystic breasts. Just because we are prone to harmless lumps and bumps on our bodies doesn't mean that one of them might not turn out to be cancer. Regular mammograms and Pap smears should be as much as part of our health routine as any aspect of our fibromyalgia treatment.

Source:

James, W.; Timothy, G.; and Elston, D. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology, 11th ed. London, England: Elsevier; ISBN 9781437703145 (2011).

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