Lipedema vs Lymphedema

Lipedema vs. Lymphedema

Lipedema is often confused with lymphedema, but both are distinct medical conditions.


Lipedema typically starts slowly in adolescent years, and worsens progressively over time. It involves chronic deposition of fat in the subcutaneous tissue in the lower part of the body (hips, thighs, buttocks and legs). Sometimes lipedema may also affect the arms. The condition almost exclusively occurs in females.

A few key characteristics distinguish lipedema from lymphedema. An important difference is that lipedema usually does not affect the feet.

The excess fat accumulation could occur in the complete leg, but will usually stop at the ankle. Another distinguishing feature is that lipedema will usually involve both the legs equally, which means the enlargement of limbs is symmetric.

Lipedema patients may have a rubbery, soft skin, which can include fatty lumps in the tissue at a later stage. Thumb pressure will leave no pitting (no indentation). Heredity and hormonal imbalances may be associated with the occurrence of lipedema.


Lymphedema occurs when the lymphatic pressure increases in the affected areas because of edema accumulation in the subcutaneous tissue. With time, the tissue becomes firmer, marked by fibrosis.

Lymphedema can develop at any age, but generally occurs after puberty. Both men and women can develop this condition.

Unlike lipedema, primary lymphedema will usually occur in only leg. Swelling affects the feet as well, and skin indentation is always present. Stemmer sign (a diagnostic measure) is positive. Lymphatic system malfunction is the key cause of lymphedema.

Comparison Table

Characteristic Lipedema Lymphedema
Gender Primarily females Male/Female
Onset Adolescence Usually puberty
Heredity High incidence Low incidence
Obesity Correlated Variable
Symmetric Yes Usually in one leg
Feet Swelling Never Mostly
Skin Thin or Normal Firm or Hard
Indentation (Pitting) None Always
Bruising Frequent None
Pain/Discomfort Frequent Occasional
Tenderness Frequent Occasional
Nutrition Control Minor/Variable Benefit Significant Benefit