Cellulite Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

What is cellulite?

The collection of fat lumps under the skin surface, and the resulting dimpling is termed as cellulite. The cellulite usually forms at the thighs, hips and buttocks. It is not a serious condition, and many girls, women, including few men suffer from cellulite.

Cellulite: The condition of subcutaneous fat deposition

What causes cellulite?

The exact cause of cellulite is not entirely known. All of us have fat layers under our skin. When the collagen fibres, connecting the skin and fat stretch, get pulled or break, the fat cells protrude out. It leads to uneven surfaces and dimpling.

The risk factors that can predispose for cellulite include:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Gender: Females are more likely to have cellulite than males
  • Obesity: People with high body mass index (BMI) are more prone to cellulite
  • Weight changes: Adding on weight will highlight cellulite while weight loss can either worsen or improve cellulite
  • Lifestyle: Prolonged hours of sitting or standing can worsen cellulite
  • Dehydration
  • Excess intake of carbohydrates can enhance cellulite formation
  • Hormonal changes – Insulin can increase the fat content
  • Pregnancy: Changes in prolactin and insulin hormones and fluid volume can influence cellulite

Cellulite: The condition of subcutaneous fat deposition

What are the symptoms of cellulite?

Cellulite appears as bumpy or dimpled skin. Sometimes, it is described as having a “cottage cheese” like texture. You can check if you have cellulite by pinching and the presence of any dimpling in the pinched skin will point to mild cellulite. Severe cellulite makes the skin areas filled with peaks and valleys that appear bumpy and crumpled.

What is the treatment for cellulite?

The treatment for cellulite includes:

Losing weight: Adopting a healthy lifestyle with regular exercising and healthy eating habits to lose weight, will be the most effective approach for treating cellulite. Strengthening the muscles of your legs, thighs, abdomen and buttocks can improve the appearance of the dimples on the skin. However, the weight loss will not completely make the cellulite go away.

Body contouring with radiofrequency and laser devices: This is the latest line of treatment that combines massage, radiofrequency devices, lasers or infrared light at superficial or deeper levels of the skin for treating cellulite. Their results can last up to 6 months.

Topical medication: The use of retinoic acid for over six months has been proven to improve cellulite by increasing the skin collagen thickness and contour of the elastic fibres.

Liposuction (surgery for fat removal) and mesotherapy (injecting drugs into the cellulite) are not very effective. Liposuction is meant for the removal of the deep fat, while cellulite lies closer to the skin. Mesotherapy carries the risk of scarring and abscesses formation.

How can I prevent cellulite formation?

Steps to avoid cellulite formation include:

  • Adopting a healthy, fibre rich diet with fruits and vegetables
  • Drinking plenty of fluids and staying hydrated
  • Keeping your muscles toned by regular exercises
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Next steps

Often, cellulite is considered as a regular occurrence and treatment is not necessary. Contact your doctor if you have cosmetic concerns.

Consult a top Cosmetic/Plastic Surgeon

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  • MedlinePlus. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002033.htm. Accessed 11 Jul. 16.
  • DermNetNZ. http://www.dermnetnz.org/dermal-infiltrative/cellulite.html. Accessed 11 Jul. 16.
  • Mlosek RK, Wozniak W, Malinowska S, Lewandowski M, Nowicki A. The effectiveness of anticellulite treatment using tripolar radiofrequency monitored by classic and high-frequency ultrasound. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venerol. 2012;26(6):696–703.

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