About Lipedema

Lipedema is a common condition that occurs in around 11% of women. It can be caused by hormonal and hereditary factors. Lipedema affects the adipose cells, or fat cells in the body.

The condition is characterized by excessive deposits of fat in the lower limbs, around the buttocks and hips, and sometimes the upper arms. At the same time, as these areas grow, the rest of the body remains the same size, which disrupts the proportions of the body and can result in a “trunk-like” appearance of the legs. If left untreated, lipedema can begin to affect the torso, as well. Because of the way the excess fat hinders the lymphatic system, untreated lipedema can become dangerous.

Lipedema is often misdiagnosed as obesity. However, the disease has nothing to do with being overweight. It is not affected by caloric intake. Because it is so frequently misdiagnosed, it’s helpful to know as much as possible about lipedema even before seeking a diagnosis. Here are the answers to common questions about it.


  • What are the symptoms of lipedema?

    In addition to an increase of fat in the legs and hips, you may notice:

    • “Cuffs” of excess fat around your ankles
    • An increasingly disproportionate body shape
    • A sudden tendency to bruise easily
    • Swollen, tender legs that hurt to touch
    • The inability to lose excess fat with diet and exercise
    • Dimpled, lumpy skin
  • What causes lipedema?

    Beyond understanding that the disease tends to begin during hormonal imbalances or shifts, we are not sure what causes the disease. We do know that men rarely get lipedema and that the condition may be hereditary.

  • How does lipedema progress?

    There are four stages of lipedema. In stage one, you may notice a bit of discomfort and increased fat. Stage two presents with pronounced fat deposits in the lower body. In stage three, you can experience fat deformities around the thighs and knees. Stage four typically leads to lipolymphedema, resulting in lymphedema.

  • Is there a cure for lipedema?

    No. Lipedema has no cure, but there are treatments that can help you manage and even thrive with the disease.

  • What are my treatment options?

    You have both non-surgical and surgical options to consider. In the early stages, avoiding inflammatory foods can help, as can low-impact exercise, such as aquatic activities, leisurely bike rides and walks, and yoga. Throughout the progression of the disease, using compression garments can relieve the pressure and pain caused by the excess adipose tissue. Lymphatic drainage massage, which improves the flow of the lymphatic system, is also beneficial.

    You should also discuss the possibility of liposuction with your plastic surgeon. Liposuction is a low-risk surgical treatment that removes the fat tissue from the affected areas. It also stalls the progression of lipedema. Dr. Salameh can walk you through the different types of liposuction that can help you.