Lipedema vs Lymphedema—Why Early Intervention Is Important

Lipedema and lymphedema are often confused as the same condition, but one is actually derived from the other. Both disorders strike only women and are often misdiagnosed as a weight problem or obesity. Lipedema is a genetic, painful disorder that evolves into stages when left untreated and eventually can result in a secondary condition of lymphedema. Millions of women struggle with this disease in the United States and if left undiagnosed it can lead to life-threatening complications.

Dr. Jaime Schwartz is one of the country’s leading lipedema specialists. Board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Total Lipedema Care in Beverly Hills, CA, Dr. Schwartz is working to find answers and solutions about these complicated and misunderstood conditions. Here is some helpful information from Dr. Schwartz on what each of these conditions entails and what early intervention can do for you.

The basics on lipedema


Lipedema is a progressive disease that strikes women. Current research shows this chronic condition is correlated with a woman’s hormones. For years, women have gone undiagnosed with this disease. Women are often brushed aside as having a weight problem or needing to change their lifestyle and eat better and exercise more. Lipedema occurs when fatty tissue begins to build up causing it to accumulate mainly in the lower extremities. Women suffering from this condition are normal size in their upper body but have excessive fat in their legs, hips, and in rare cases their upper arms. As this disease progresses, it only worsens with each stage eventually evolving into a secondary condition of lymphedema.

A closer look at Lipedema and Lymphedema


Lipedema is a chronic, progressive disorder that when left undiagnosed only leads to putting more strain and stress on a woman’s lymphatic system. Lipedema occurs when fatty tissue builds up in areas such as the hips and lower and upper legs. This buildup eventually causes skin damage, and skin loses extreme laxity and impeded blood vessels causes discomfort. Referred to as a “fat disease”, it actually is a genetic condition. In the later stages of lipedema (there are 4 stages), women can develop a secondary condition called lymphedema.

Lymphedema is caused by increased pressure on the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system, due to excessive fat accumulation in the subcutaneous tissue. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining and can lead to swelling. One of the main characteristics of lymphedema is that women begin to have excessive build-up or swelling in their feet unlike with lipedema.

Differences between Lipedema and Lymphedema


One of the notable differences between these two diseases is that lymphedema evolves into the feet. Excess accumulation of fat typically involves the entire leg with lipedema but generally stops at the ankles. Most women are left with a ring or fold of skin at the ankle area. Lymphedema involves the whole leg and causes excessive swelling in the feet.

Lymphedema also causes excess fluid to leave dark spots or fibrosis of the skin over time. These types of changes to the skin are not seen with lipedema stages. Lymphedema also involves a higher risk of heart failure due to poor circulation as well as ulcers and recurrent infections for women who have this condition. These types of medical issues are rarely seen in women with lipedema. A question often posed to Dr. Schwartz is, “Can early intervention help with both?”

Early intervention is important


An early diagnosis with lipedema can give women a better fighting chance to live more comfortably with this disease. Women in the Beverly Hills area and throughout the country who may be concerned about excessive weight gain in their lower extremities should seek medical advice from a lipedema specialist like Dr. Schwartz. Both of these conditions are progressive disorders so early intervention with a definitive diagnosis will have access to treatment options and can manage their symptoms in order to live a better quality of life. Women in the later stages of lipedema or who have evolved into a secondary condition of lymphedema are more physically inhibited with this condition which can lead to more emotional stress and health problems.

Finding the right help for early intervention


Finding a lipedema specialist like Dr. Schwartz is key to getting early treatment help so this disease can be managed. Lipedema generally begins slowly with women experiencing symptoms during adolescence. If weight gain becomes an issue, then this disease only worsens. Diet and regular exercise are imperative in the early stages to help manage excess fat accumulation in the lower extremities. Encouraging women to stay active and search for treatment options helps with not allowing this disease to progress into more debilitating, painful stages or eventually lymphedema. Dr. Schwartz is working diligently throughout the medical community to give women answers so they are no longer misdiagnosed and their lipedema becomes life-altering.

If you are concerned you have lipedema, we invite you to call or schedule a consultation with Dr. Jaime Schwartz at Total Lipedema Care in Beverly Hills, CA. Women living with this progressive disease are not alone. Over 17 million women have been diagnosed with this painful, chronic, and progressive condition. Finding a specialist like Dr. Schwartz can give you hope and early intervention is important in order to give you the help that you need.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.