You’ve probably heard of both of these terms: “lymphedema” and “lipedema.” Since the names are very similar, it’s easy to think they’re the same condition. This is particularly the case as doctors frequently misdiagnose both. They tell patients they are merely obese.
Yet, they aren’t the same condition at all. In fact, many differences exist between the two. Therefore, knowing how they differ from each other is extremely important, particularly if you’ve just received a diagnosis. Here, we take a closer look at both conditions so you can learn more about them.
What Are the Main Differences Between Both Conditions?
Although the names are almost identical, the cause of each condition is not. Lymph fluids accumulating in the body’s tissues cause lymphedema. This is what causes the swelling. On the other hand, abnormally accumulating excess fat, usually in the lower body, causes lipedema. Although there are numerous differences, it’s important to know that the latter condition can progress and become lymphedema.
Differences in Appearance and Affected Areas
Lipedema patients find the condition affects both legs, with their lower limbs having a virtually symmetrical appearance. It doesn’t affect the feet, and a cuff of fat will usually form around the ankle.
Lymphedema sufferers, on the other hand, find that the condition usually affects one leg. When it affects both legs, the swelling is asymmetric, with one leg bigger than the other. The feet are also generally swollen in lymphedema patients.
Pitting and the Stemmer’s Sign
You can identify lymphedema if you are unable to lift a fold of skin. Instead, you can only grasp lumps of tissue. This is the “Stemmer’s Sign.” It differentiates between both conditions as it only occurs in lymphedema sufferers.
Lipedema patients have tissue with a rubbery, soft feel. Pressure applied by a finger or thumb won’t leave an indentation or pit. Conversely, lymphedema leaves pitting and indentations, particularly during its later stages of development.
The Presence of Pain
One further difference between the two conditions is whether there is pain present. Lipedema patients experience pain when they touch their affected areas, and they bruise easily. Lymphedema sufferers do not.
Treatment with Liposuction
Doctors can treat both conditions with liposuction. People may associate this treatment primarily with cosmetic procedures, but it can serve a medical purpose, too. By removing the problematic fat cells permanently, liposuction helps to improve patients’ quality of life. It greatly improves mobility and, in the case of lipedema patients, significantly reduces pain. Patients suffering from both conditions can also benefit from improved self-confidence and a mental health boost.
Here at Artlipo, Dr. Su is a liposuction specialist. He has treated many patients in his career. Although he treats cosmetic patients, he’s also eager to improve the lives of those with medical issues that need addressing.
If you’ve received a lipedema diagnosis, contact Artlipo today to find out more about how we can help. Our treatments can give you the better quality of life you deserve.
Dr. Thomas Su, is the owner and cosmetic surgeon of Artistic Lipo. He has led our full-time clinic specializing in awake-only liposuction since 2007. Dr. Su began his medical career in internal medicine, practicing that until 2005, when he began to provide a full spectrum of non-invasive cosmetic procedures.