The Link Between Lipedema and Obesity


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Unsure if you’re living with lipedema or battling the bulge of obesity?  Hint: not all fat is created equal.  

While commonly confused, lipedema and obesity are quite different and indicate very specific characteristics.  Before you beat yourself up when the needle on the scale fails to budge after months of diligent exercise and diet regimens, let’s take a look at the differences between obesity and lipedema.  Lipedema is a fat deposition disorder that affects roughly 11% of the female population.  While obesity doesn’t lead to lipedema, lipedema can progress to obesity, especially if left untreated, mismanaged, or misdiagnosed.

Characteristics of Lipedema

  • Affects the lower region of the body, specifically buttocks, thighs, and calves, causing “cankles” and sparing the feet.  In later stages, lipedema fat may affect the arms, sparing the hands.  The body assumes a distinctive, column-like structure.
  • Lipedema fat is hard, lumpy, and painful to the touch, leading to swelling, bruising, and soreness.
  • Lipedema characteristics begin to take shape during the onset of puberty, pregnancy, or another hormonal milestone in a woman’s life.
  • Lipedema fat doesn’t respond to diet or exercise and often requires surgical intervention for effective mitigation that will lead to an improved quality of life.  Non-invasive treatments, such as compression garments and lymphatic drainage massage may relieve painful symptoms in the earlier stages of the fat deposition disorder.
  • It’s possible to have lipedema and still be fit, especially if the disorder is being properly managed.
  • If lipedema is misdiagnosed or left untreated, it can easily lead one on the path to obesity.
  • Mobility may become limited if left untreated.

Characteristics of Obesity

  • Fat accumulation affects both men and women, including children of any age.
  • Fat accumulation in obese people responds positively to proper diet and exercise.
  • Fat accumulates mostly in the center of the body, specifically around the abdomen, buttocks, and hips.
  • Fat isn’t hard, lumpy, nor painful.
  • Except in rare cases, mobility is not threatened.
  • Excess fat in obese individuals can pose serious health risks, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular dysfunction.

BMI and the Link Between Obesity and Lipedema
Both lipedema and obesity can increase one’s BMI (Body Mass Index).  If lipedema is misdiagnosed as obesity, patients will inevitably grow frustrated with their futile fitness efforts to shed the packing pounds and succumb to an unhealthy lifestyle that can worsen their lipedema, progressing into obesity and dangerously increasing their BMI.

The key to keeping your lipedema in check is to be properly diagnosed and adhere to a rigorous treatment plan, as specified by your doctor.  Whether you’re managing your lipedema with compression garment therapy, lymphatic drainage massage, whole-body vibration, or surgical intervention, such as Manual Lipedema Extraction, it’s imperative to stay committed to your treatment plan so your lipedema doesn’t progress into latter, more debilitating stages, or obesity.

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