Lipedema: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diet, Diagnosis

What is Lipedema?

Lipedema is a disorder where there is an enlargement of both the legs of the affected person, because of the fat deposits under the skin. It gets worse over time, there may be pain and the affected person bruise easily. In severe cases, the trunk and the upper body may also be involved.

Basically, Lipedema is a poorly understood disease in the US. It is a painful fat disorder, that if left untreated, can lead to several other health problems leading to mobility issues. Lipedema is also known as “Painful fat syndrome.” Women, those who have a size 8 or 10 from the waist up and a size 18 or more from the waist down with unusually large, column-like legs, exhibit classic early stage of Lipedema. As the disease progresses, fat increases in the lower body. Although Lipedema affects mostly women, there may also be, few men who might be affected by the condition.

What is Lipedema?

Basically, there is abnormal bilateral and symmetrical swelling of the legs and hips that extends down towards the ankles, where the fat forms a ring just above the ankle. Accumulation of fat and fluid in the tissues under the skin, leads to the swelling  and Lipedema.

The cause is still unknown, but genetics and hormonal factors may be involved in the development of Lipedema. It often runs in families.

Causes of Lipedema

The cause of Lipedema is not known; however, there are some beliefs that it may be genetic and hormonal factors. Scientists believe genes are involved, since many women with Lipedema have family members with the same condition.

Doctors also suspect that female hormones play a role in this. That is because the condition affects mostly women, and it often begins or worsens at puberty, during pregnancy, following gynecologic surgery and during the time of menopause.

It must be noted that some of the risk factors for lipedema include obesity or being overweight, etc.

Other conditions that may present similarly to lipedema include obesity, chronic venous insufficiency, lipohypertrophy and Lymphedema.

Symptoms of Lipedema

  • Disproportionately large lower half and coloum-like legs, which are often tender and get bruised easily. Feet often are not affected by this condition.
  • As the condition of Lipedema progresses, fat continues to build up and the lower body grows heavier. The lipedemic fat can later collect in the arms. Over time, these expanding fat cells block the vessels of the Lymphatic system, which is known to help balance the body fluid levels and protect against infections.
  • This blockage leads to a fluid build up known as Lymphedema. This is because, the blockage prevents the proper drainage of lymph fluid which leads to the fluid buildup. It must be mentioned that if left untreated, Lymphedema can result in other problems like infections, delayed wound healing, hardened skin on legs, fibrosis, etc.

Diagnosis of Lipedema

Lipedema is difficult to evaluate and diagnose and is sometimes even misdiagnosed. So, it must be done by an expert medical professional. Imaging studies like Ultrasound, MRI, Lymphoscintigraphy and Lymphanodiogram may be beneficial in diagnosing Lipedema. However, it must be known that the test results may appear normal in the early stages of Lipedema.

It is crucial to differentiate Lipedema from other similar disorders including, but not limited to obesity, Lipohypertrophy, lymphedema etc. In advance cases, other causes of classic edema of the lower legs should be considered, like Chronic venous insufficiency, edema because of internal disease, postural edemas.

Guidelines for diagnosing Lipedema include criteria-like occurrence almost exclusively in women; bilateral and symmetrical presentation with the minimal involvement of the feet; minimal pain, tenderness and easy bruising; persistent swelling of lower extremities, despite elevation or weight loss, symptoms of the upper legs and arms, such as a circularly thickened fat layer affecting the skin.

Treatment of Lipedema

Below are some of the treatments for Lipedema.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

This treatment helps in relieving pain and prevent fibrosis. This is a form of massage that makes use of gentle, rhythmic pumping movements so as to stimulate the flow of lymph around blocked areas to healthy vessels, where it can drain into the venous system.

Stretch Compression Bandages:

Stretch compression bandages can be used in order to increase pressure in the swollen legs and reduce the fluid buildup.


One more way to treat Lipedema is Liposuction. Lymph-sparing, water-assisted Liposuction can remove the diseased tissue and relieve in reducing the symptoms of Lipedema.

Diet For Lipedema:

Most individuals with Lipedema will suffer from weight issues. Though diet won’t eliminate the body fat, it can, however; stop your body from adding to its existing stores. Eating right, avoiding the wrongs and following a perfect Lipedema treatment diet is very much essential in maintaining a healthy weight and avoid excessive fat gain. Below are some of the foods you must include and foods you need to avoid in a Lipedema treatment diet.

Foods To Include In Your Diet for Lipedema

Liquid Foods:

Anything that is made with liquid is great for your health, as fluid promotes the elimination of excess fat cells before your body can absorb and distribute them. Soup, in particular is good for you, especially the vegetable soups. Stews and protein shakes can also encourage better weight and fat management.


You need to take diets rich in vegetables that are loaded with fiber and will help in reducing fat, sugar and cholesterol in the body, thus helping you prevent excessive production of fat cells. Vegetables are also rich in fluids and minerals and thus you must add lots of vegetables to your diet.


Fruits are loaded with water and are excellent for your overall health. However, remember that because they are also rich in sugar, which is converted to fat more quickly than actual dietary fat; so you must limit yourself to one or two portions of organic fruit every day.


Protein-rich diets can also help in Lipedema treatment. Lean proteins such as eggs, fish, lean beef, chicken, etc. all are considered to be Lipedema treatment diet. These proteins deliver amino acids that build muscles, which in turn aid to burn calories and fat. All plant-based proteins are also important for good health.

Complex Carbohydrates:

Complex carbohydrates are anything that contains a lot of fiber and nutrients to round out the carbohydrate content. For example; whole wheat, brown rice, nuts, quinoa, seeds, and barley are great complex carbohydrates. Eat them in moderation and enjoy them as a part of your healthy diet.

Foods To Avoid In Your Diet for Lipedema


Alcohol can increase the storage of fat cells and slow down the digestion. Thus, you should cut back on alcohol, especially red wine, so as to treat Lipedema.


You must also limit your salt intake. High-sodium rich foods can mess with your electrolyte balance and encourage the storage of fat rather than its elimination. You can see a lower risk of weight and fat gain if you minimize the amount of salt in your diet.

Simple Sugars:

You have to avoid simple sugar that does not have fiber and nutrients in it. These simple sugars are turned into fat cells, quickly for your body to burn.

Excessive Animal Fats:

While saturated fat is not going to harm your heart, it contributes to an increased production of triglycerides. So, you need to limit the amount of animal fat you eat and this will help you avoid unwanted weight and fat gain.


So, we talked about some of the causes, symptoms, treatments, and diets for Lipedema. You need to follow a healthy diet and treatment regimen along with your doctor to get rid of the condition quickly.