Lipedema Misdiagnosed as Fibromyalgia


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Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is a difference between lipedema and fibromyalgia. We get to the bottom of these two commonly misdiagnosed, elusive disorders.

Poorly misunderstood and commonly misdiagnosed, lipedema, unfortunately, has yet to garner widespread awareness and a clinically conclusive definition within the health community. Besides being overly misdiagnosed/mistaken with the other “L” disorder – lymphedema – the fatty deposition disorder known as lipedema is also commonly misdiagnosed with the “F” word – fibromyalgia, even though the two mysterious maladies vary greatly and share only a few similar characteristics. Here, we debunk long-held myths and come clean about collective mistruths to help clear the confusion.

What is Lipedema and Its Symptoms?

A medical condition that affects almost 11% of all women, lipedema is an acute disorder of adipose tissue accumulation typically first noticed in the lower extremities of the body. It is a fat deposition disorder categorized by a visually asymmetrical shape and contour of the legs, hips, and flanks, while virtually sparing the feet. Symptoms of lipedema include:

  • Affected areas are painful and tender to touch. 
  • Skin becomes cold to the touch, spongy, painful, and prone to bruising and swelling.
  • Lipedema progresses in stages if left untreated.
  • No improvements are seen in weight, proportion or pain with diet and exercise regimens.
  • Lipedema can lead to venous complications in its advanced stages.
  • Most lipedema sufferers are female.
  • Lipedema can limit mobility and vanquish quality of life, leaving the sufferer feeling depressed, confused, and
    socially isolated.
  • Brain fog and confusion

Brain Fog is Clouding My Concentration, and I am in pain! Do I Have Fibromyalgia or Lipedema?

If chronic midday brain fog is putting you on the brink of a major meltdown and you’re in chronic pain, these are both common symptoms of fibromyalgia and lipedema. We are increasingly noticing a trend with our lipedema patients at Total Lipedema Care being misdiagnosed with Fibromyalgia before coming to us seeking answers about their additional symptoms. While the cause(s) of Fibromyalgia is still inconclusive, fibromyalgia is a chronic condition where there is an amplified pain response. It is believed that the causes may stem from genetic or environmental factors as doctors have reported patients often share the same recurring symptoms with family members— ironically we are noticing the genetic component in lipedema studies as well. Other possible causes of fibromyalgia are linked to lifestyle influences, such as trauma/PTSD, psychological stress, and overexposure to infections. Dubbed “central sensitization,” fibromyalgia pain stems from the central nervous system and affects roughly 2-8% of the population, with women being twice as likely as their male counterparts to develop the disorder. No diagnostic tests are currently available, hence the confusion between lipedema and fibromyalgia and the subsequent, intangible misdiagnosis. Treatment for fibromyalgia usually includes a shift in lifestyle factors (diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, etc.), and if a lipedema patient is misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, this treatment plan will be ineffective. Additionally cognitive behavior therapy has been found to be beneficial in alleviating symptoms for fibromyalgia.

You may have fibromyalgia if you’re experiencing most of the following:

  • Generalized, dull, persistent muscle pain that lasts for weeks or months 
  • Chronic fatigue and lack of energy, even after a full night’s sleep
  • Insomnia/disrupted sleep
  • Recurring headaches/migraines for no known reason
  • IBS/intestinal issues
  • Numbness/tingling in the face and limbs, causing a burning sensation to the skin
  • Hypersensitivity to stimuli, i.e., pain, smells, sounds
  • Despondency and feelings of hopelessness
  • Skin afflictions, such as hives, uncontrollable itching, and rashes
  • Bruising of the skin to weakened blood vessels

While lipedema and fibromyalgia share a few common characteristics, one of the major characteristics of lipedema is an acute accumulation of fat buildup in the extremities that worsens overtime if left untreated, with or without other symptoms present.

Getting Answers

If you suspect you may have been misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, we invite you to speak with one of our highly skilled consultants at Total Lipedema Care to gain clarity. We offer safe and effective solutions and customized treatment plans to help you overcome your health challenges and reach your wellness goals.

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