Lymphedema vs. Lipedema

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Lymphedema and lipedema, also known as lipoedema, are two distinctly different conditions with similar names. Lymphedema is a condition that occurs due to damage to the lymphatic system, while lipedema is a condition which involves a deposition of fat typically in the legs and arms.


Lymphedema occurs in stages–

Stage 0 (The Latency Stage)

In this stage, symptoms are not yet obvious and can only be detected by professionals. This is a very delicate stage in which a patient is at risk or pre disposed to developing Lymphedema. Patient education is very important in this stage as there are many things one can do to avoid progressing to stage 1. If someone in Stage 0 experiences a stressful event to the pre-disposed area, such as an injury, burn, bite, etc., this could trigger the patient to develop into Stage 1.

Stage 1 (Mild)

In this stage, a mild swelling occurs due to an accumulation of lymph fluid in the affected area. Pitting may begin to occur in this stage. Pitting is when a ‘mark is left in the skin by applying pressure from a finger, hand or object’ (

In this stage, the swelling can be ‘reversible’ with compression and elevation.

Stage 2

In this stage the affected area becomes increasingly swollen. It is common to experience inflammation, hardening or thickening of the skin tissue. Swelling can not be alleviated with elevation in this stage.

Stage 3

This stage is the most severe stage of Lymphedema. This stage entails even more advanced swelling often causing the affected area to become misshapen or develop Lymphedema lobes. The skin often loses integrity and becomes leathery or wrinkled.


Lipedema also follows stages– these stages follow a succession of increased subcutaneous fat. It is possible in later stages of Lipedema for lymphedema to occur– this is called Lipolymphedema.

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