What is Lipohypertrophy?

Lipohypertrophy refers to the accumulation of fat or scar tissue forming under the skin. It is a result of repeated injections in the same area. This condition is common in people with 1 diabetes who require daily insulin shots or injections to stabilize and control their blood sugar levels. Studies suggest that around 62% of people with type 1 diabetes experience lipohypertrophy at some point in their lives.

What are the symptoms of lipohypertrophy?

If you have type 1 diabetes and you notice a raised area of your skin, there is a good chance you have lipohypertrophy. The following are the major symptoms of the condition:

  • Rubbery patches on the raised area of the skin (can be small and hard)
  • The affected skin has a surface area of over 1 inch in terms of its diameter
  • A firm feeling in the affected area compared to elsewhere on the body
  • Strange or unappealing appearance of the affected area
  • Swollen lumps beneath the skin

People who may have lipohypertrophy may overlook this condition and think of it as a normal skin thickening. However, this occurrence may be a result of repeated insulin shots in the same area. You can check lipohypertrophy by stroking the affected skin area or consult your healthcare professional to determine if the condition already exists.

What causes lipohypertrophy?

As mentioned, lipohypertrophy is common in people with type 1 diabetes. It happens when insulin is injected into the exact site of the skin too many times. This action can lead to the buildup of fat and protein, as what is reflected in the listed symptoms of lipohypertrophy.

In treating type 1 diabetes, different types of insulin are used. If a few patients are prescribed medium or long-acting insulin, they are more prone to having lipohypertrophy. How is this possible? It is mainly because long-acting types of insulin stay longer at the injection site, which allows fat and protein to accumulate.

The following involves the risk factors of lipohypertrophy:

  • Reuse of needle injections
  • Multiple insulin shots
  • Using pen devices in injecting
  • People with type 1 diabetes

How to reduce your risk of lipohypertrophy?

There are several things to consider to prevent your risk of lipohypertrophy. These are as follows:

  • Do not inject in the same area several times. Changing the injection site regularly is necessary, especially for people with type 1 diabetes.
  • For people who use pump devices, change the site every two to three days.
  • Plan ahead. This involves scheduling your daily injection sites to different bodily areas. Note that you can inject insulin either on the upper arm, belly, front of the thighs, and upper buttocks.
  • Keep track of your injection sites.
  • Always use a fresh needle. Reusing needles can cause complications because of contamination.
  • When you inject insulin or medication near a previous site, always estimate about an inch of space in between when administering the shot.
  • Do not forget to inspect your skin before administering the shot or installing the pump device.
  • Consult with your healthcare professional and seek more advice on how to better administer your injections without the worry of having lipohypertrophy.

When to call your healthcare professional?

Aside from learning about the symptoms of lipohypertrophy, there are things you need to take into account when lipohypertrophy already occurs. These are as follows:

  • The affected skin should not be hot or warm when you touch it.
  • It should not be red, bruised, or painful.

If you experience any of these, seek immediate medical attention. The development of the mentioned condition may be a sign of another illness or medical complication.