What Is Lipedema?

Lipedema is a chronic condition that causes extra fat to collect in the lower part of the body, including the buttocks, thighs, and calves. However, it may also affect the upper arms or abdomen. 

Common symptoms of lipedema include:

  • A buildup of fat in the lower body. There is typically no swelling in the hands or feet.
  • Pain or discomfort.
  • Affected ability to walk as the condition worsens.
  • Emotional symptoms such as embarrassment, anxiety, and depression.
  • Blockage of lymphatic pathways which can lead to secondary lymphedema or lipo-lymphedema.

What Causes Lipedema?

While the exact cause of lipedema is not known, this condition runs in families and may be genetic. Lipedema most often affects women, and usually begins or worsens at the time of puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. It is important to understand that this condition is not caused by obesity, however, more than half of the patients with this condition are overweight. Dieting does not impact the areas affected by lipedema.

Stages of Lipedema

There are currently four recognized stages of lipedema, including the following.

Stage 1: The skin will appear normal to the touch, but nodules of enlarged fat may be present. These nodules can be felt during a medical examination. Patients may be experiencing some pain and bruise easily.

Stage 2: The surface of the skin becomes uneven and may be dimpled or indentations. The amount of excess fat will also increase compared to stage 1.

Stage 3: Large extensions of skin and fat will develop and may protrude from the limbs. The legs can appear columnar. These protrusions are caused by inflammation and the thickening of tissues.

Stage 4:  At this stage, both lipedema and lymphedema are present. 

Contact Us Today

A true lipedema diagnosis cannot be confirmed without a physical exam by a doctor. If you believe you may have lipedema and are ready to make a change, contact First State Lipedema today. Nadiv Shapira MD, FACS, FACPH is skilled in treating lipedema for a happier and healthier you.