What is it?

Lipedema is a chronic medical condition characterized by a symmetric buildup of adipose tissue (fat) in the legs and arms. Lipedema may cause pain, swelling, and easy bruising. It may be accompanied by an unusual texture within the fat that can feel like rice, peas, or walnuts beneath the surface of the skin. The intensity of pain may range from none to severe, and its frequency may be constant, come and go, or only occur when the fat is pushed on. Common symptoms include fatigue, muscle pain, or easy bruising.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Localized Adiposity
- Visceral fat

Signs & symptoms

Lipedema Symptoms and Presentations includes:
- Occurs almost exclusively in women
- Bilateral (affects both legs and symmetrical)
- The feet usually are unaffected or minimally affected, often leading to a pantaloon appearance at the ankle, where the fat deposits end.
- Minimal pitting edema
- Pain and tenderness when pressed
- Increased capillary fragility; easy bruising
- Not improved by weight loss/dieting


Lipedema is diagnosed based on the symptoms and clinical examination. Imaging studies, such as ultrasound, MRI, lymphangiogram, and/or lymphoscintigraphy may be useful in diagnosing lipedema. Other conditions may need to be excluded before a diagnosis can be made. Classical guidelines for diagnosing lipedema include the following criteria: occurrence almost exclusively in women; bilateral and symmetrical presentation with minimal involvement of the feet; minimal pitting edema, pain, tenderness, and easy bruising; and persistent swelling of lower extremities despite elevation or weight loss.


Treatment for lipedema is focused on managing the symptoms. There is no one effective treatment for lipedema. Management to alleviate symptoms and prevent progression involves exercise, diet and nutrition, emotional support, and management of co-existing health problems that may cause leg-swelling. Main conservative treatment is complete decongestive therapy (also called complex decongestive therapy, or CDT). CDT combines several approaches including manual lymph drainage (a message technique), compression therapy, and physical mobilization. Surgery may be considered if conservative and supportive therapies are not effective. Surgical options may include liposuction using specialized techniques for lipedema (such as water jet-assisted liposuction) and excision (surgical removal of large deposits of affected tissue).

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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