Cellulite versus Lipedema: What is the difference?


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Cracking the common conundrum of these two very common conditions.

Though commonly confused, yet intrinsically linked, there are clear, definitive differences between cellulite and lipedema. Unsure if you’re suffering from a cosmetic case of “cottage cheese thighs” or the more potentially serious fat accumulating condition known as lipedema? Read on to find out.

What is Cellulite?

Cellulite is categorized as an accumulation of fatty deposits just beneath the skin’s surface that push through the underlying connective tissue, resulting in visible dimpling or puckering, giving the skin an “orange peel” appearance. Commonly referred to as “cottage cheese thighs” in women’s magazines, and health and wellness sites, cellulite doesn’t discriminate. The dreaded dimpling affects nearly 90% of all women of all body types, irrespective of body composition or fitness level. Angel wing-adorned supermodels, attention-grabbing celebrities, and even famous fitness personalities are not immune to the all-too-common lumps and bumps that often pervade the buttocks, thighs, stomach, and upper arm areas of even the most seemingly beautiful women. Nothing to be ashamed about, cellulite is extremely common and is more of a superficial inconvenience, if anything.

What Causes Cellulite?

The most common causes of cellulite are:

  • Living a sedentary lifestyle/lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Genetic predispositions
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Menopause
  • Normal aging processes/loss of skin laxity
  • Pregnancy
  • Weight gain
  • Poor diet/lifestyle choices

Is There a Cure for Cellulite?

An aesthetic woe for many women, cellulite is painless and doesn’t necessarily pose a health risk as it does reservations for donning a body-baring bikini. Cellulite usually diminishes or exaggerates depending on weight loss and weight gain, and although there is currently no cure, there are proven ways to help minimize its appearance and undesirable presence, including: implementing a healthy, well-balanced diet; regular strength/weight training sessions; guzzling down 8-10 glasses of water daily to help flush toxins from cells; undergoing therapeutic massage to boost blood flow and help temporarily “break up” fatty tissue; apply topical, skin “firming” creams/targeted treatments; and undergoing in-office procedures. Many women also find the detoxifying effects of a coffee bean body scrub help curb the look of cottage cheese skin. The body-boosting, caffeine content in coffee helps eliminate impurities from pores, tightening and firming the skin in the process.

What is Lipedema?

Lipedema, on the other hand, is an acute disorder of adipose tissue in the lower extremities of the body, affecting mostly women. Lipedema is a medical disorder categorized by visually enlarged, column-like legs, including the hips and flanks. Oddly, a major characteristic of Lipedema is it almost never affects the feet of the sufferer, thus creating an asymmetrical shape and disproportionate contour to the lower body. Common unappealing monikers often include, “cankles” or “elephant legs” and the unsightly symmetry of the lower body often socially isolates its victims. Lipedema develops when fat deposits heavily beneath the skin’s surface, much like its cellulite counterpart, but leaves the outlying skin extremely sensitive, cold and painful to the touch, and spongy. If left untreated, those who suffer from lipedema will often see a progression from stage one to stage four, leaving skin to become easily bruised and veiny, causing immense personal discomfort, and ultimately, limiting mobility and diminishing enjoyment of life. Untreated stage four progression of lipedema can also adversely affect the body’s crucial lymphatic system, leading to a host of other health challenges. Classified as a medical condition, as opposed to a cosmetic condition like cellulite, lipedema requires a more personalized, comprehensive approach to treatment, including overall lifestyle and dietary modifications that may or may not be successful.

Causes of Lipedema and Lymphedema

While some causes are similar to cellulite, lack of diet, exercise or lethargy are proven to not be directly related to the cause of lipedema or lymphedema, instead- the following are known causes of lipedema that could potentially lead to lymphedema:

  • Hormonal influences/variations
  • Genetics predispositions
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Puberty

Treatment for Lipedema and Lymphedema

Though there is currently no cure for lipedema, the condition can be managed and even reversed with proper, targeted treatment and on-going medical care. Though there is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan, Total Lipedema Care offers customized, proprietary treatments to help treat and/or markedly reduce the debilitating, adverse effects of lipedema, helping patients regain a quality-filled life. Our signature surgical treatment includes lymphatic sparing liposuction techniques with Dr. Jaime Schwartz’s exclusive manual lipedema extraction technique combined with long-term compression therapy, psychological counseling, and more.

To learn more, please contact our Beverly Hills, California office to schedule a consultation with any of our highly trained specialists.