What is Lipedema?

Lipedema is a condition in which fat is distributed in an irregular way beneath the skin, usually concentrated in the legs and buttocks. Lipedema, which affects about 11 percent of women, can be painful and lead to issues with mobility.


  • Disproportionately large lower half and column-like legs, which often are tender and bruise easily. The feet often are unaffected.
  • Over time, expanding fat cells block the vessels of the lymphatic system, which is supposed to help balance body fluid levels and protect against infection.
  • Blockage prevents the proper drainage of lymph fluid, leading to a buildup of fluid called lymphedema.

Lipedema can be inherited. It may develop gradually during puberty. The condition also may get worse due to a trauma, such as surgery or pregnancy. Lipedema mostly affects women, and doctors suspect that female hormones play a role.


  • Diet and exercise are not effective in reducing fat due to lipedema, so people with lipedema might be able to lose weight around the stomach, but not in their legs. Exercise can help reduce fluid buildup and boost mobility.
  • Stretch compression bandages or clothing can be used to increase pressure in the swollen legs and reduce fluid buildup.
  • Manual drainage is a form of massage that can stimulate the flow of lymph fluid around blocked areas to healthy vessels, where it can drain into the venous system.
  • Lymph-sparing, water-assisted liposuction can remove the diseased tissue.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, WebMD, Curelipedema.org, Cancer.org, CDC.gov

Living with Lymphedema and Lipedema