The Differences Between Cysts and Lipomas

Cysts and lipomas are common skin growths, and they can be diagnosed and treated by your doctor. The good news is that they’re harmless, and you don’t need to have them removed unless they become bothersome.

At Associated Dermatologists, with offices in Berkley, Commerce, Novi, and West Bloomfield, Michigan, our experienced team can differentiate between cysts and lipomas and recommend next best steps.

Skin growths 101 

There are many different types of skin growths, both benign and malignant. Cysts and lipomas are both harmless, but they can still warrant your doctor’s attention.  


Cysts are pockets of fluid or tissue that have become trapped under the skin. This causes irritation in the area, which leads to swelling. There are a number of different types of cysts, including: 

These are just a few examples of common cysts. They’re all technically harmless on their own, but they might warrant treatment if they become painful, infected, or unsightly. 


Lipomas, also known as skin lumps, are noncancerous fatty tumors. They’re common among older adults, and often form under the skin of your arms, thighs, and upper body. These areas collect fat easily, which means it’s easy for fatty tumors to form. Despite technically being tumors, lipomas are generally nothing to worry about. However, you should have all suspected lipomas examined by your doctor to verify that they’re benign. 

Telling the difference 

You can generally tell cysts and lipomas apart based on touch. 

Cysts don’t move when you apply pressure, and they might feel tender when you prod at them. Don’t try to pop your cyst; this can be painful, and it might lead to infection and scarring. If a cyst is causing you distress, talk to the team at Associated Dermatologists about removing it. Cysts can be treated using anti-inflammatory injections, drainage, or minor surgery.  

Lipomas are soft and easily moved under the skin. They might be a little tender if they’re pressing against a nerve or blood vessel, but they rarely cause problems. If your lipoma is growing rapidly, in an uncomfortable spot, or makes you self-conscious, you can have it removed. 

Only a doctor can fully identify skin growths, so you should bring up any unusual lumps or bumps during your visit. To learn more, schedule a consultation with the team at Associated Dermatologists by calling the location closest to you, or request an appointment online

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