About Lipedema

What is Lipedema?

 Lipedema, also known as lipidema and lipoedema, is a condition that may affect up to 11% of women.  Lipidema is a lymphatic disease that is thought to affect 10 million to 17 million people in America, mostly women.

Lipedema occurs when fat is distributed in an irregular way beneath your skin, usually in the buttocks and legs.

Although Lipedema begins as a cosmetic concern, it can eventually cause pain and other problems.

Lipedema can be mistaken for regular obesity or lymphedema. 

Treatment of Lipedema:

There is no one treatment for lipedema; however various strategies may be useful to manage symptoms. One such method is Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT). CDT is an intensive program that combines different treatment approaches such as bandaging, compression garments, manual lymphatic drainage (massage technique that aims to encourage drainage of lymph fluid), exercise, and self care.

In a study of 38 women with lipedema, CDT was found to successfully reduce the rate of bruise formation.[1][4][6]

Surgery is the only technique to remove abnormal fat tissue; however its use is controversial.

Surgery may damage the lymphatic vessels and should be undertaken only by surgeons with expertise in treating lipedema.

Causes of Lipedema:

The cause of lipedema is unknown.

The condition occurs almost entirely in females and often develops after puberty or other periods of hormonal change (such as pregnancy or menopause).

Many people with lipedema are obese or overweight, however, normal weight individuals are also affected.

Many people with lipedema have a family history of relatives with similarly enlarged legs. A genetic cause is suspected, but not confirmed.


Signs and Symptoms of Lipedema:

The signs and symptoms of lipedema typically appear during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause.

Symptoms vary from person to person, but usually include abnormal deposits of body fat in both legs, extending from the buttocks to the ankles.

This often painful disorder usually worsens gradually, although some individuals develop minor lipedema that stabilizes.

In the early stages of lipedema, most individuals have a normal appearance above their waist.

As the disorder progresses, the chest, torso, abdomen, and upper extremities may also become enlarged.

The skin overlying the affected areas usually appears normal, although it may lose elasticity. People with lipedema tend to bruise easily, possibly due to the increased fragility of small blood vessel within the fat tissue.


  1. Fonder MA, Loveless JW, Lazarus GS. Lipedema, a frequently unrecognized problem. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007; 57 (2 Suppl):S1-3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17637360.
  2. Amanda Oakley. Lipoedema. DermNet NZ. 2008; http://dermnetnz.org/dermal-infiltrative/lipoedema.html. Accessed 10/5/2016.
  3. Lipedema. Fat Disorders Research Society. https://www.fatdisorders.org/lipedema/. Accessed 10/5/2016.