What Is Lipedema?

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

Common symptoms of lipedema include:

  • A buildup of fat in the lower body.
  • Swollen legs without swollen feet.
  • Pain or discomfort.
  • Affected mobility as the condition worsens.
  • Emotional symptoms such as shame, anxiety, and depression.
  • Blockage of lymphatic pathways.
  • Lymph fluid buildup.

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 lipedema patients are overweight. Dieting does not impact the abnormal fat 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 experience some pain and bruise easily.

Stage 2: The surface of the skin becomes uneven and may be dimpled or indentated. 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. Lymphedema is an accumulation of fluids leading to blocked or damaged lymph nodes.

Lipedema Treatments

Surgical treatment is the most effective method for treating lipedema patients. Surgical treatment of liposuction can remove the excess fat pockets in the lower and upper body to help you achieve a healthy weight. Lipedema symptoms including increased body weight, tenderness, weight gain, and fluid swelling can be reduced through treatment. Compression therapy can be effective in reducing swelling and discomfort with the use of compression garments.

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 to diagnose lipedema. Nadiv Shapira MD, FACS, FACPH is skilled in treating lipedema for a happier and healthier you.