Signs and Symptoms of Cellulite

Signs of cellulite are relatively easy to recognize. The condition is characterized by fat deposits under the skin that cause an uneven, lumpy, dimpled appearance.

Cellulite is more common in women and usually occurs in a localized area of the body, such as on the stomach, thighs, hips, and buttocks. It also can occur in other areas, including the breasts, upper arms, back, and neck.

Areas of the body affected by cellulite often are described as resembling cottage cheese or an orange peel. In mild cases, the dimpling only is noticeable when the skin is pinched or compressed. Other symptoms include thickened skin, a cool feel to the skin, and broken blood vessels.

In severe cases, cellulite may cause skin in the affected area to become more sensitive and to bruise more easily than normal. Increased sensitivity, excessive bruising, and other symptoms (e.g., redness, swelling, itching) may indicate a more serious condition and should be reported to a qualified health care provider.

Cellulite can develop in people who are thin or of normal weight, as well as in people who are overweight or obese. Although the names of the conditions are similar, cellulite is not associated with cellulitis. Cellulitis is a potentially life-threatening infection of the skin or connective tissue.

Cellulite Diagnosis

There are diagnostic tests available (e.g., ultrasound) that can detect the presence of cellulite and determine the extent of the condition; however, these tests are usually unnecessary. Cellulite can be diagnosed by pinching or rolling the skin in the affected area.

Although, the appearance of cellulite can be distressing and affect self esteem, the condition does not cause medical problems. In fact, some medical professionals consider cellulite to be a normal condition, especially in women. More than 80–90 percent of women have some degree of cellulite.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 13 Nov 2008

Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015