Cellulite in the Legs: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments

It is much more common in women than men due to differences in the way fat is distributed.

There is also difference in the muscles and connective tissue in the skin of men and women.

Cellulite is the appearance of dimples on the skin. The bulge of cellulite is caused by deposits of fat that push and distort the connective tissues under the skin, leading to the characteristic changes in the appearance of the skin.

Cellulitis has been medically referred to as edematous fibrosclerotic panniculopathy .

It is not related to the condition known as cellulitis, which is a disseminated bacterial infection or inflammation of the skin and tissues below.


The dimpled appearance of cellulite can be considered as a normal variant, a way in which many perfectly normal human beings are seen.

Inheritance, skin thickness, sex, amount and distribution of body fat and age can influence the extent to which cellulite is present or visible.

It is believed that cellulite occurs due to the contraction or shortening of the fibrous strands of tissue that anchor the skin.

While cellulite is more common in women than in men, men can also be affected.

It is possible that female hormones may favor this pattern of fat placement, but it is not possible to use a hormone therapy treatment to combat it.

Risk factor’s

  • Cellulite is more common in women than in men.
  • Having a family history of cellulitis is another risk factor.
  • Pregnancy and a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of developing cellulite.

Symptoms and signs of cellulite

  • Cellulite produces dimples in the skin and a lumpy appearance in the flesh.
  • Cellulite can cause an “orange peel” appearance on the skin.
  • It is most commonly found on the hips, legs, buttocks and abdomen.
  • Sometimes it happens in the breasts, the upper part of the arms or the abdomen.
  • When the cellulite is mild, the dimples are not apparent unless the skin is tight.

Diagnosis and evaluation

Cellulite is normally considered a cosmetic problem.

The characteristic appearance of cellulite is enough to confirm that the condition is present.

There are no diagnostic tests for cellulite.

Since cellulite is considered a cosmetic problem, aesthetic doctors, including plastic surgeons and some dermatologists, can offer some treatments for cellulite.

Cellulitis treatments

Many people do not like the appearance of cellulite since they want to have the skin as soft as possible.

Therefore, much has been written about cellulite and many treatments have been promoted, ranging from changes in diet to anti-cellulite creams and mechanical treatments.

Some of these therapies include:

Use of methylxanthines

Methylxanthines are a group of chemicals that include aminophylline, caffeine and theophylline.

These chemicals are present in many creams to combat cellulite and are promoted as treatments due to their known ability to break down fat reserves.

However, skin creams can not provide the required concentration of these chemicals during the time required for the significant breakdown of fat.

However, studies have reported a slight reduction in thigh measurements, but did not show significant results in the reduction of cellulite.

Dietary supplements

There are several products that have been commercialized and that contain a variety of ingredients such as ginkgo biloba, sweet clover, bioflavinoids contained in grape seeds, evening primrose oils, fish oils and soy lecithin.

These mixtures claim to have positive effects on the body, such as increasing metabolism, improving the circulatory process, preventing cell damage and break down adipose tissue.

These effects are difficult to evaluate, as is the case also of similar claims of many supplements and alternative therapies.

Concepts such as “metabolism”, “circulation” or “cell damage” can not be easily measured on an objective basis to determine whether or not any improvement has been achieved.

There are no valid studies that support the use of these treatments for cellulite.

Caution should be exercised with the use of these dietary supplements that are used in the treatment of cellulite, as they may pose health risks or interact with other prescribed medications.

For example, there are formulations containing compound iodine, which can be harmful for people suffering from thyroid.

Treatments with massages

Several devices that massage the areas affected by cellulite have been introduced into the market.

These machines use cylinders to massage the skin.

An example of massage treatments is Endermologie, which was developed in France and has been used for the treatment of cellulite since the mid-1990s.

This technique is based on the use of electrical devices that suck, stretch and tighten the areas affected by cellulite.

The treatments are expensive and usually last between 30 and 45 minutes.

Generally, 10 to 12 treatments are required before the results are visible.

While there may be a temporary decrease in the appearance of cellulite, the technique seems to redistribute the fat instead of permanently altering its configuration under the skin.

Regular maintenance treatments are required after the initial effect has been achieved and to prevent the cellulitis from returning, such as the use of laser, light or radiofrequency therapy.

The Triactive plus, is a treatment that combines a low level laser treatment with suction and manipulation of the skin, while Velasmooth and Velashape are treatments that combine laser therapy and massage.

Like the Endermologie, both treatments require multiple treatment sessions and maintenance treatments to maintain improved appearance.

Other systems use radiofrequency therapy in combination with massage and infrared or radiofrequency light at multiple levels simultaneously.


It is a controversial treatment for cellulite and involves injecting drugs directly into the affected tissue.

Herbs and vitamins are often also used in injection cocktails.

Many injections are given in multiple sessions (usually 10 or more).

Although this procedure is performed by doctors, specialists believe that this type of treatment is not scientifically proven and can be risky.

The collagenase

It is a natural enzyme in the body that breaks down collagen, a component of connective tissue (the tissues that bind cells).

Some studies have suggested that injections with this enzyme may be beneficial in improving the appearance of cellulite, but the long-term effects of these injections are still unknown, and studies have not yet been completed to determine the extent and duration of the best.

The treatment is considered experimental, but research and trials are under way to determine if collagenase injections can become an option for the treatment of cellulite.

Anti-cellulite diets

Special diets for cellulite have been proposed that are said to be effective in the treatment of cellulite.

Advocates of these diets claim that the combination of foods in the diet can reduce inflammation and improve circulation in the affected areas and decrease cellulite.

However, no study published in the medical literature has supported these claims.

Experts have concluded that eating a healthy diet can decrease fluid retention and improve the health and overall appearance of the skin, but specific diets designed to combat cellulite have no effect.

The wrappers

Many treatment rooms offer body wraps and other types of body wraps such as cellulite treatments.

As with cellulite diets, their effects have not been proven or reported in controlled studies in the medical literature.

Wraps can decrease fluid retention and improve the overall appearance of the skin, but these effects are temporary.

Nor is it possible to “detoxify” the body through the use of herbal wraps or other methods.

la subcisión

This technique involves cutting the fibrous cords (partitions) that extend down into the lower part of the skin, by using a device.

Retinol cream

Retinol is a product used to combat wrinkles of facial skin. The application of retinol cream twice a day.

It has been shown to decrease the dimpling of the skin after six months of treatment.