Cellulitis is those lumpy bulges that get smaller but don’t disappear with weight loss. They seem to have a dimpled appearance or some say ‘orange peel’ or cottage cheese look. cellulitis is common on the upper thighs, buttocks, upper arms but can appear also on the stomach, neck, upper arms and fronts of the thighs. But how cellulitis develops has been a question women have asked for years.
It is a very common condition; over 85% of women are plagued with cellulitis. It is more common in women as they age but some girls as young as 16 can develop cellulitis. How cellulitis develops in a young girl is affected more by hormones and genetics than by poor nutrition and other factors.
Under the layer of skin that you can see and feel are three layers of fat. The top layer is called subcutaneous meaning ‘sub’ or under the cutaneous layer (skin). Under the subcutaneous fat layer are two reserve layers where the fat cells store extra calories to be burned when the body needs it. cellulitis resides in the top layer of fat, in the subcutaneous layer.
cellulitis develops in the septae or a net like fibrous connective tissue that is directly under the skin. This septae form compartments where the fat cells are located. They keep the fat tightly packaged and provides support for the skin and insulation for the body.
When cellulitis begins to form the subcutaneous cells are pushed up and the fibrous tissue recedes downwards. These fat cells are squeezed into small bulges that look like lumps or orange peel, hence how cellulitis develops.
As woman ages her skin becomes thinner, losing elasticity and connective tissue. This worsens the appearance of cellulitis - even though the cellulitis might not have changed over the years.
Another trigger for how cellulitis develops is the estrogen and progesterone responsible for the unique biological functions of a women’s body. During pregnancy and other hormonal surges the estrogen and progesterone cause a breakdown in the collagen in the skin making it thinner and less elastic.
cellulitis is a cosmetic condition meaning that it may be unsightly to you but it has no medical effects on the body that cause illness or disease. Psychologists who treat women for body image difficulties may disagree but insurance companies are very firm on this topic.
Although poor circulation is one of the main reasons how cellulitis develops, the reasons for the poor circulation are many. Genetics play a part, as do female hormones. Pregnancy adds extra weight and cuts the circulation off to the upper legs with the addition of fluid retention. Prolonged stress increases the amount of adrenaline which leads to increased fat storage. Pelvic surgery may change the microcirculation to the abdomen and upper legs, which increases fluid retention. Obesity increases the risk factors for cellulitis because of the decreased circulation and increased fat storage.
Each of these factors do not contribute to how cellulitis develops equally; nor do they contribute equally between people. Some of the factors are avoidable, such as poor nutrition and dehydration; others are not avoidable such as sex and age. The amount of cellulitis that develops can be affected by addressing the avoidable and changeable factors, thus decreasing the amount of that would have otherwise developed.