how is lipedema diagnosed


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For many women who have been diagnosed with lipedema, a condition that causes fluid-like fat to accumulate in the lower extremities, their stories start out very similar. They were born at a normal weight and never had weight-related issues during childhood. At puberty, they experienced regular body changes to their hips, waist, and breasts. However, for some, they started to notice they had fat legs at puberty, and while the rest of their body was changing, their legs weren’t losing the fat. As time went by, they still had thick legs, and no amount of diet and exercise was making an impact.

Thus begins the journey of a lipedema patient. While the exact cause of this disorder is unknown, more research is shedding light on common traits and signature symptoms often seen with this condition that affects millions of women every year. Doctors who treat lipedema, like Dr. Jaime Schwartz, are diligently working to provide women with consistent resources, treatment options, and, most important, a definitive diagnosis of lipedema, to help them have a better quality of life with this chronic disease.

Dr. Schwartz, a board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Total Lipedema Care (TLC) in Beverly Hills, CA, is recognized in the lipedema community for his efforts in finding new treatments while continually looking for answers to this complex disease. Read on to learn more about what lipedema is and how lipedema is diagnosed from one of the foremost experts in the field.


In the past, lipedema was often misdiagnosed as an issue of unhealthy lifestyle choices or weight gain due to obesity. The question of “how did I get lipedema” is one of the first ones asked by patients during a consultation with a lipedema specialist like Dr. Schwartz. While the exact cause of lipedema is unknown, it seems to be a genetically predisposed condition, passed down from other female family members, which exclusively targets women. Lipedema affects millions of women every year, and experts like Dr. Schwartz are working to help patients get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment.


The word lipedema means “fluid in the fat,” and it is caused by an uneven distribution of fat in an irregular manner below the skin. This fat appears in specific target areas, such as the legs, thighs, hips, and buttocks. The hallmark trait of lipedema is an increase in subcutaneous fat below the waist or lower extremities – essentially causing the appearance of big legs and a small body. Lipedema can also be present in the upper arms as a secondary condition for some women.

What’s important to understand about lipedema is that it is not the same as obesity. Oftentimes, patients feel like they have two different bodies, with a smaller, typical-looking upper body, but an enlarged and disproportionate lower half. Lipedema experts, like Dr. Schwartz and the team at Total Lipedema Care in Beverly Hills, CA, possess the knowledge and know-how to properly diagnose that a patient does indeed have lipedema and what treatment options are available to fight this disease.


Lipedema is a progressive disease that develops into four different stages and, if left untreated, can get progressively worse. Common symptoms of lipedema patients in Beverly Hills, CA as seen from a lipedema specialist like Dr. Schwartz include:

  • A fatty buildup or accumulation in the lower extremities while the upper body remains primarily unaffected (in some cases, the upper arms may also show signs of excess fat related to lipedema).

  • Patients may develop a cuff around the ankle, also known as a “cankle.” It’s hard to tell the difference between the calf and ankle, making it look like a cylinder, but the foot remains unaffected.

  • Fat accumulation is symmetrical, making the patient’s legs look lumpy or like columns.

  • The accumulated fat may feel abnormal and even painful to the touch. The affected areas may bruise more easily.

  • Skin can become firm and less elastic feeling.

  • In later stages of lipedema, the skin can start to pucker and form hanging folds, becoming heavy and cumbersome, significantly impeding a patient’s mobility.


Every stage of lipedema takes on definitive characteristics as the disease progresses. Trained, experienced experts, like Dr. Schwartz, know what signs and symptoms of lipedema to look for in order to correctly diagnose and help patients who may have been misdiagnosed in the past or never knew they even had this disease.

During a private consultation at Total Lipedema Care in Beverly Hills, CA, Dr. Schwartz will perform a thorough examination to look for lipedema nodules and check for other telltale signs of this disorder. In addition to being a doctor who treats lipedema, Dr. Schwartz is also a board-certified plastic surgeon who is well-versed in multiple lipedema treatment options, such as lymphatic sparing liposuction, excess skin removal, and his own signature treatment, Manual Lipedema Extraction.

Medical professionals unfamiliar with this chronic disease often dismiss women with lipedema as being overweight, and their condition goes untreated. However, now, thanks to lipedema experts like Dr. Jaime Schwartz and treatment centers like Total Lipedema Care in Beverly Hills, CA, women can get a definitive lipedema diagnosis as well as emotional support and treatment options to benefit their overall quality of life. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Schwartz if you are questioning “why are my legs fat” or think you may have lipedema.