Comparison of Lipedema and Lymphedema


Lipedema is a chronic, progressive accumulation of fat in the tissue just below the skin that almost exclusively affects women. Generally only the lower extremities are affected (hips, buttocks, legs); however, Lipedema can occur in the arms as well. Visually, Lipedema can best be described as symmetric enlargement of the limbs, combined with tenderness and easy bruising. Patients that suffer from Lipedema have soft rubber-like skin that may include small fatty lumps (nodules) within the tissues in later stages. Pressure with the thumb does not leave an indentation (no pitting) in Lipedema. The underlying cause for the development of Lipedema is associated with hormonal disorders and heredity.


Lymphedema tends to occur after puberty (but can occur at any age) with foot and ankle swelling. It can affect both males and females. While Lipedema always affects both legs symmetrically (bilateral appearance), primary Lymphedema usually affects only one leg. The feet in Lymphedema are involved in the swelling, and a diagnostic indicator known as the Stemmer sign is positive. Pitting of the skin is invariably present. The cause for the onset of Lymphedema are malformations of the lymphatic system.


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