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Lipedema Vs Lymphedema

Lipedema and Lymphedema are two distinct medical disorders, even though both of the conditions involve swelling in legs and arms. Read below to know the differences between the two.

Lipedema Vs Lymphedema

Lipedema Vs Lymphedema: Differences Worth Knowing

Lipedema is a disorder that involves the pathologic fat deposition, mostly in the legs. It does not involve the lymphatic system. The affected fatty areas often resembles fatty tumors and are quite painful to touch. In this condition, the legs get pushed further and further out while walking, thus causing eventual damage to the ankles and the knees. So, mostly in case of lipedema, the lower extremities are affected; however, it may also occur in combination with the upper extremities as well.

Lymphedema is however a disorder of the lymphatic system and it involves circulation of lymph fluid and is related to the immune system. There is swelling in a leg or an arm when there occurs blockages in the circulation of the lymphatic fluid. Typically, one extremity, either one arm or one leg, is affected with lymphedema.

Lipedema Vs Lymphedema: Differences Based On The Sex Affected And Age Of Onset

Lipedema occurs exclusively in women. However, lymphedema can occur in both the sex, i.e., men as well as women. Both the conditions, i.e., Lipedema as well as Lymphedema occur mainly after puberty. However, it can occur at any age.

Lipedema Vs Lymphedema: Differences Based On Affected Areas And Appearance:

Lipedema always affect both legs and presents with a near symmetrical appearance. It means, both the legs become large when affected by Lipedema. In case of Lipedema, the feet are not impacted. However, lymphedema usually affects only one leg. In case lymphedema affect both legs, the swelling is asymmetric, i.e. one leg will be larger than the other leg. The feet become swollen in general.

Lipedema Vs Lymphedema: Differences Based On Pain/No Pain:

Lipedema is usually painful to touch. Also, the patients with Lipedema will bruise easily. However, in case of Lymphedema, it is not painful to touch and also the patients will not easily bruise.

Lipedema Vs Lymphedema: Differences Based On Stemmer Sign And Pitting/No Pitting:

The Stemmer sign also provides a differentiating marker between Lipedema and Lymphedema. Those patients with Lipedema, have tissues that have a soft and rubbery feel, and pressure from a thumb or finger does not leave a pit. However, Lymphedema will leave pitting, especially in the later stages. Lymphedema can be identified positively when a skin fold cannot be lifted; rather, only a lump of tissue can be grasped. This is when Lipedema begins to develop into Lymphedema.

Lipedema Vs Lymphedema : Differences Based On The Cause:

The cause for the development of Lipedema remains unknown; though it is thought to be associated with some hormonal disorders. However, the malfunction of the lymphatic system is known to be the cause for the onset of Lymphedema.

Lipedema Vs Lymphedema : Differences Based On Treatments:

The typical treatment for Lipedema is initially conservative therapy with complete decongestive therapy performed by a trained and experienced therapist. Some patients may also be candidates for tumescent liposuction aspiration and removal of the pathologic fat. In some cases, Lipedema and Lymphedema may overlap and the excess fat deposited in Lipedema disorder may even lead to Lymphedema. Thus, some patients who have been treated for Lipedema with either complete decongestive therapy or tumescent Liposuction, may require long-term treatment with compression garments.

Lymphedema is treated with conservative therapy like complete decongestive therapy, done by a trained therapist. Even, highly technical surgeries may also be used for treating Lymphedema. Fluid-based Lymphedema is treated with VLNT or Vascularized Lymph Node Transfer or LVA or Lymphatic Venous Anastomosis. In chronic cases of Lymphedema, suction-assisted protein lipectomy or SAPL may be used as a treatment method. These procedures are known to be very much effective in reducing the excess volume, compression garment use and therapy essential for patients with Lymphedema in the arms or legs. It must be noted that the type of the treatment procedure must be carefully matched to the type of patient for achieving best results.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Lipedema. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lipedema/symptoms-causes/syc-20452035
  2. National Lymphedema Network. (2021). About Lymphedema. Retrieved from https://lymphnet.org/about-lymphedema/
  3. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. (2021). Lipedema Treatment Options. Retrieved from https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/lipedema-treatment-options

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 17, 2023

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