Lipedema (also known as lipoedema in many places outside the United States) is a chronic medical condition characterized by the abnormal accumulation of fat cells, usually in the legs, but many also see it in the arms. It's possible to see it spread throughout the body. Recently, it's been described as a loose connective tissue condition. Lipedema is not rare but rarely diagnosed because doctors are not typically taught about lipedema during medical school, even though it was first described in 1940. It's mostly seen in women, but it's possible for men to have lipedema as well.
Lipedema is progressive and has multiple stages. As we progress through the stages, symptoms typically worsen and mobility can be affected.


  • Fat Distribution: Disproportional to the rest of the body, usually symmetrical. Typically, what you might consider the "pear-shaped" body with the lower half of the body being out of proportion with the top half of the body. Many with lipedema wear different sizes of clothing on the top and bottom of their bodies.
  • Bruising: Easily bruising is a common symptom but not seen 100% of the time.
  • Sensitivity: The areas affected are often tender to the touch. For example, a simple poke with a finger into my arm will cause me to jump and will hurt for several minutes afterward.
  • Pain and Heaviness: Pain in the affected areas is very common, especially in the later stages. It's important to note that some people with lipedema don't have pain. It's also very common to hear descriptions of feeling like the legs are very heavy and weighed down.


Many people with lipedema also have other chronic conditions, such as Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

What Causes Lipedema?

The exact cause of lipedema is still a subject of research. However, several factors are often discussed:
  • Genetics: A family history of lipedema can be a significant indicator.
  • Hormones: It most commonly appears or progresses during hormonal shifts like puberty, pregnancy, or menopause.

Possible Outcomes

If left untreated, lipedema can lead to mobility issues, and lymphatic complications such as lymphedema (lipo-lymphedema), and significantly impact your quality of life.

Treatment Options (not an exhaustive list)

Conservative Treatments

  • Compression Garments: Special stockings or wraps can improve blood flow and reduce swelling.
  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage: This massage technique helps to circulate lymph fluids back into the bloodstream.

Surgical Treatments

  • Liposuction: Removes the abnormal fat tissue, providing pain relief and helping to regain mobility.

Integrative Approaches

  • Physical Therapy: Movement exercises can aid mobility.
  • Dietary Adjustments: While it won't 'cure' lipedema, a balanced diet can help manage weight and alleviate some symptoms.

What to Do if You Think You Have Lipedema?

  1. Consult a Specialist: A healthcare provider familiar with lipedema can offer a diagnosis and treatment suggestions. Keep in mind that many healthcare providers are not educated about lipedema, making it important to seek out someone with experience if possible. A certified lymphatic therapist is also a good option when you have difficulty finding a doctor familiar with it.
  2. Join a Community: Places like The Lipedema Journey Facebook group and Lippy Cafe membership offer emotional support and practical advice. There are plenty of other communities, such as Lipedema Fitness, Lipedema Sisters USA, and Lipoedema Warriors plus many more.

Your Journey Ahead

Understanding lipedema can be a complex and emotional journey. But remember, you're not alone. With the right information, a supportive community, and a plan for managing your lipedema, you're empowered to live your life to its fullest.


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