Lipedema is a disorder characterized by the accumulation of fat in parts of the body. The subcutaneous adipose tissue, which accumulates on the lower parts of the body, is what causes the abnormal distribution of fat. Lipedema is sometimes confused with lymphedema though it can lead to it. In this article, you will be able to learn about the condition and also therapies used to control it.

Lipedema Causes

While the cause is unknown, experts assume it is genetic or is caused by hormonal changes. Obesity or improper nutrition are not causes. Dieting does not make you lose weight in areas affected by Lipedema.

  • Hormonal changes
    Lipedema triggers by puberty, the use of contraceptives, pregnancy, and menopause. Since it mostly occurs in women most experts link it with hormonal imbalances.
  • Genetic
    It’s possible to inherit the condition if it runs in your family.

It consists of 5 types.

  1. Type 1. The buttocks, pelvis, and hips.
  2. Type 2. Affects the buttocks and down to the knees.
  3. Type 3. It affects the buttocks, hips, and thighs and continues down to the calves.
  4. Type 4. The fat spreads from the shoulders to the wrists.
  5. Type 5. The fat is on the Calves.

Signs and symptoms

  • Pain and sensitivity of the affected areas.
  • As the condition gets worse, it affects the mobility of a person reason being the muscles have grown weak.
  • Tissue enlargement in buttocks, thighs, calves, and also arms. The feet and hands do not swell. Trying to elevate the affected areas does not help reduce the fat build-up.
  • The affected areas easily bruise and there may be no cause for it.
  • The skin appears different in affected areas. There may be the presence of large dimples and the skin is more delicate and appears cool.
  • Swelling and increased weight in the affected areas.
  • Emotional symptoms such as the patients being embarrassed by how they look or they may also suffer from depression.
  • Telangiectasias. You will see small broken blood vessels on the surface of the skin around the fat deposits.
  • A negative Stemmer’s sign. This is where skin folds at the base of the second or middle finger and can be pinched and lifted.
  • Minimal pitting edema.
  • Stages of Lipedema

It is divided into three stages depending on its development:

Stage 1

The skin appears normal but smooth to the touch. There is an increase in fat accumulation underneath the skin. A person may experience some mild pain.

Stage 2

The surface of the skin becomes uneven. The skin becomes dimpled. The fat build-up increases compared to stage 1.

Stage 3

A person develops large folds of skin and fat that poke out from the limbs which distort the limb profile. These fat accumulations apply pressure on a person’s joints and affect their mobility. The protrusions develop due to inflammation of tissues in the limbs.

Stage 4

Is when both Lipedema and Lymphedema are present in the body. Lymphedema occurs when Lipedema has caused the fat cells to interfere with a person’s lymphatic system.

Management and treatment of Lipedema

There is no cure for Lipedema as there is no specific cause. However, there are ways a person can manage their symptoms.

Lifestyle changes

A healthy diet may help in slowing the progress of Lipedema. Exercises like swimming, biking, and walking reduce swelling.

Compression therapy

It may help manage the condition. It involves the use of bandages or clothing that increases pressure on the tissues inside the swollen limbs. Compression therapy helps to reduce pain and discomfort, support tissue limbs, and improve mobility because it prevents the skin from rubbing against each other.

It does not change the size or shape of your limbs. The therapy has an anti-inflammatory effect on the fat build-up and improves blood circulation. When combined with exercise, It is more effective since they both have the same effect on the limbs.

What type of compression therapy to use?  Flat-knit clothing is the most recommended because of its comfort. It is more effective since it adapts to changes in the size of the limbs. Such clothes are stockings or leggings. An individual condition determines what type of clothing to wear. Compression bandages are not used in patients who purely suffer from Lipedema.

You may experience pain, discomfort, and numbness of your toes and fingers if you do not wear your clothing properly. In case of such symptoms, try to move your limb or remove the garment entirely.


Liposuction involves the removal of excess fat while not interfering with the lymphatic vessels. During surgery, a cannula is inserted under the skin. The fatty tissue is broken down and removed from the body by a high-pressure vacuum. The most effective types of liposuction are;

  • The tumescent technique which involves the injection of saline solution in the fatty area before ejecting the Lipedema fat.
  • Water-jet assisted liposuction where Klein or saline solution is used as a jet that releases the fat for liposuction.


Patients living with Lipedema suffer psychologically. Some negative remarks from people who may not have sufficient knowledge of the condition may be hard for them to overcome. Their self-esteem may be affected and they may develop depression and sleeping disorders. Psychotherapy is recommended by specialists to help patients build coping skills on such occurrences.

Manual lymphatic drainage massage

Lymphatic drainage stimulates the movement of lymph fluid around the body. Massage helps in moving lymph fluid from blocked areas. This increases blood flow and helps in pain reduction.


If a person receives their recommended Lipedema Treatment, they can manage their condition better. If you suspect having Lipedema, you should contact your doctor and discuss your condition. This will help prevent the condition from developing further.

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