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Cellulite Symptoms and Causes

Written by Katherine Barrington, Certified Fitness Nutrition Coach

Cellulite is every woman’s worst nightmare, though it can really affect anyone after the onset of puberty. This condition which gives your thighs the appearance of cottage cheese may not be medically dangerous, but it can affect your appearance and your confidence. Keep reading to learn more about what cellulite is and what are cellulite symptoms and causes. You’ll also learn about some of the most common myths and misconceptions about cellulite.

Cellulite Symptoms and Causes

Cellulite Symptoms and what Exactly is Cellulite?

Also known as adiposis edematosa, cellulite is a condition in which fat deposits under the skin give it a dimpled or lumpy appearance. Most noticeable on the thighs and buttocks, cellulite typically develops after puberty and affects as many as 90% of women at some point in their lives.

There are three different grades for cellulite based on cellulite symptoms – here is a brief overview:

  • Grade 1 – There are no clinical symptoms of cellulite but a microscopic examination of cells from the thighs or buttocks may reveal underlying anatomical changes indicative of cellulite.
  • Grade 2 – In addition to anatomical changes seen in a microscopic examination, cellulite requires the skin to have decreased elasticity, lower temperature, and pallor.
  • Grade 3 – As well as all of the Grade 2 signs, cellulite creates a visible roughness to the skin similar to the appearance of an orange peel.

Not only is cellulite known as adiposis edematosa, but it has also been colloquially called orange peel syndrome and cottage cheese skin. Other medical terms for cellulite include status protrusus cutis, dermapanniculosis deformans, and gynoid lipodystrophy.

What Are the Causes of Cellulite?

Cellulite CausesCellulite isn’t a serious medical condition, so treatment generally isn’t required. In fact, having cellulite is completely natural and the only problems it causes are aesthetic. Researchers still do not fully understand what causes cellulite, though it has something to do with the connective fibers that tether the skin to the muscle that lies beneath it. As the layer of fat between the skin and muscle grows thicker, the fat cells begin to accumulate and push against the underside of the skin, creating an uneven, dimpled surface.

Anyone can develop cellulite, though it seems to be more common in women than men. This is likely due to the fact that women tend to have more fat in their hips, buttocks, and thighs than men – these are the areas most likely to show cellulite. Cellulite can also develop as skin loses its elasticity as a result of aging. Weight gain sometimes makes cellulite more noticeable, though people who are lean can also have cellulite. There may be a genetic component to a person’s risk of developing cellulite and a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk as well.

In addition to genetic and lifestyle factors, certain hormonal factors may contribute to a person’s risk for cellulite. For example, many women also develop cellulite during pregnancy. Though the exact details are still the subject of research, there seems to be a link between hormones like insulin, estrogen, prolactin, noradrenaline, and thyroid hormones in the production of cellulite. People who follow a high-carbohydrate diet and those who consume too much fat or salt may also have more cellulite, as can people who get too little fiber in their diet.

Addressing Common Myths and Misconceptions

As common as cellulite is, many people fall victim to misinformation. If you have cellulite that you want to get rid of, take the time to address some common myths and misconceptions before you start any sort of treatment.

Here are the top five myths about cellulite:

Myth #1: Cellulite is caused by toxins in the body.

There are many natural remedies on the market that claim to reduce cellulite by cleansing the body of accumulated toxins. In reality, cellulite formation has nothing to do with toxins and everything to do with hormonal changes as well as dietary and lifestyle factors.

Myth #2: Only people who are out of shape develop cellulite.

Cellulite Symptoms MythsLiving a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of developing cellulite and being overweight or obese might make it more noticeable. However, people who are thin and in shape can develop cellulite just as easily – it happens to people of all shapes and sizes.

Myth #3: Cardiovascular exercise is the best way to get rid of cellulite.

While cardiovascular exercise is great for burning calories and losing weight, resistance training (or strength training) is better for toning your muscles and smoothing out your skin. A combination of cardiovascular and resistance training is best for healthy weight maintenance and cellulite reduction.

Myth #4: Using a skin-firming cream can reduce cellulite.

Cellulite formation isn’t just about the condition of your skin – it is also about the fat under the skin as well as the fibers that connect your skin to your muscle. Skin-firming creams that contain retinoids may temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite but there is no hard and fast evidence to suggest that skin creams can permanently reduce cellulite.

Myth #5: Liposuction can help to cure cellulite.

Many people assume that liposuction, a procedure that removes or reduces fat deposits, will also help to reduce cellulite. In reality, liposuction often makes fat distribution more uneven and it may not do anything to reduce cellulite.

If you have cellulite and you’d like to get rid of it, take the time to learn about the treatment options that actually work – don’t believe everything you hear about natural remedies or miracle cures! Making healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle can help to reduce cellulite, as can certain dermatological treatments. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before making any drastic changes or starting treatment.

Cellulite Symptoms and Causes
~ Written by Katherine Barrington, Certified Fitness Nutrition Coach


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