The term ‘cellulite’ refers to the lumpy, dimpled appearance of the skin that some people have on their hips, thighs, abdomen and buttocks. The lumpiness of cellulite is caused by fat deposits that push and distort the connective tissues beneath skin, leading to the characteristic changes in appearance of the skin. This appearance is much more common in adolescent and adult women than in men because of some differences in the way fat, muscle and connective tissue are distributed in their skin.
Cellulite is not related to the condition known as cellulitis, which is a spreading bacterial infection or inflammation of the skin and tissues beneath the skin. Even though cellulite is not a serious medical condition, it can be unsightly and might make the patient self-conscious about wearing shorts or a swimming suit.
Cellulite is most common around the thighs and buttocks, but it can be found on the breasts, lower abdomen and upper arms as well. It looks like dimpled or bumpy skin and it is sometimes described as having a cottage cheese or orange peel texture. Mild cellulite can be seen only when the skin is pinched. More-severe cellulite makes the skin appear rumpled and bumpy with areas of peaks and valleys.
Cellulite is caused by fibrous connective cords that tether the skin to the underlying muscle, with the fat lying between. As fat cells accumulate, they push up against the skin, while the long, tough cords pull down. This creates an uneven surface or dimpling. Weight gain can make cellulite more noticeable, but some lean people have cellulite, as well. Heredity, skin thickness, gender, the amount and distribution of body fat and age can all influence the extent to which cellulite is present or visible.
Cellulite is much more common in women than in men. In fact, the majority of women have some cellulite. Cellulite occurs in people of all races living all around the globe. Cellulite is also more common with aging, when the skin loses some of its elasticity. It tends to run in families, so genetics may play the biggest role in whether the patient develop cellulite. An inactive lifestyle also may increase the chances of having cellulite, as may pregnancy.