If you’re a lipedema sufferer, you may be worried about the different lipedema stages that you’ll progress through. Most women aren’t diagnosed until they have reached a later stage. This is because it is a notoriously difficult diagnosis to receive. Many sufferers are initially told that their problem isn’t lipedema at all and that they are simply obese. It can, therefore, take several years before doctors finally acknowledge the true nature of the problem.

There are three stages of lipedema that sufferers will eventually progress through if they don’t have their condition treated. Each one is more serious, more painful, and more difficult to live with than the last. For women who go untreated until they reach the final stage, treatments are less successful. This is why it’s so important to be aware of the different stages and to seek treatment quickly.

What Does Stage 1 Lipedema Look Like?

In the earliest stages, lipedema is hard to distinguish from obesity. However, a skilled professional should be able to spot certain characteristics that are hallmarks of the disease. These include:

  • Excess fat only on the calves, thighs, and buttocks. No excess fat in the feet or ankles.
  • Pain when you apply pressure firmly to the affected body parts.
  • Tissue and skin that doesn’t indent if you place pressure on the area.

Sufferers will have lower bodies that will be out of proportion with their upper bodies. They will also find that they cannot shed weight on their lower halves. Even if they lose weight, it will usually be from their upper bodies. 

What Does Stage 2 Lipedema Look Like?

When lipedema goes untreated, it progresses to Stage 2. Signs of this stage include:

  • Nodules or fatty deposits underneath the skin.
  • Discoloration of the skin.
  • A bumpy or uneven skin appearance.

Pain under pressure will continue and the lower body will look increasingly out of proportion with the upper body.

What Does Stage 3 Lipedema Look Like?

When someone reaches the third stage of lipedema, the person will have a noticeable problem. The fat will continue to accumulate on the sufferer’s lower body. This will make it difficult to stay mobile. Some other signs of the third stage include: 

  • Increasing amounts of accumulated fat between the ankles and buttocks
  • Excess fatty deposits surrounding the knees
  • Large fat masses and skin folds that make the lower body appear deformed

At this stage, lipo-lymphedema may also develop. This occurs if the lipedema fat deposits begin to damage or block the lymph nodes. This stops the proper drainage of the lymphatic fluid. As a result, the sufferer begins to experience:

  • Swelling throughout the lower body. This will encompass other areas that were previously unaffected, such as the feet and ankles.
  • Abnormal fatty tissues will be unevenly distributed in the legs. This results in problems moving around.
  • Lipedema will start to develop in the upper arms. Sometimes, sufferers will also have excess fat on their lower arms.

How Long Does the Development Process Take?

There is no definitive answer to the question of how long it takes to progress through the different lipedema stages. It is a slow process and can take many years to reach the most serious stage. Researchers have estimated that, on average, it could take around 17 years to reach the lipo-lymphedema phase. This will vary depending on the sufferer. 

The age of onset also varies between sufferers, which only serves to complicate matters. Some women first begin to suffer during puberty. Others will develop the problem later in life. Some women only begin to experience lipedema symptoms after having gynecological surgery or after pregnancy. For this reason, medical experts suspect there is a link between it and hormonal disturbances. 

What Is the Treatment?

Whatever age you develop lipedema, it’s important to get treatment as quickly as possible after the diagnosis. The earlier you get professional help, the better your outcome will be. Doctors may suggest conservative treatments, such as compression stockings and massage. While these may help to relieve the symptoms, such as pain, they won’t treat the cause of the problem.

The only solution to lipedema at all stages of its development is liposuction. This will permanently remove the fat cells that are causing the problem. Not all surgeons can offer liposuction for lipedema sufferers. Here at Artistic Lipo and Plastic Surgery, we are proud to be able to offer an outstanding level of care. Dr. Su can produce a very complete result by removing as much fat as possible from the lower body. With his innovative active liposuction technique, he can sculpt the lower body and significantly improve the sufferer’s quality of life.

Contact the Artlipo team today to find out how we can help you. We can help you to avoid progressing through the three lipedema stages and restore your self-confidence.