What are the symptoms of Lipedema?

As I have mentioned countless times in my blogs, Lipedema is a condition that is often misdiagnosed and mistaken for obesity or Lymphedema. Although there are some overlaps between all three conditions, there are certain unique characteristics which set Lipedema apart. Once you know what to look out for, it becomes fairly obvious and easy to diagnose. So, what are the symptoms of Lipedema?


In patients with Lipedema, there is enlargement of the soft tissue. The hips, buttocks, legs and sometimes arms, are out of proportion with the rest of the body.  This enlargement appears symmetrical in both legs or arms.

The typical ‘Lipedema body’, especially in the earlier stages, is a large lower half and column-shaped legs. For example, the top half of your body may be a size 8, but the bottom half may be a size 16. This has always been the case for me, my upper body fits in a size 8, while my lower body can sometimes reach a size 14 depending on the style of trouser.

This explains why many Lipedema sufferers report that they have difficulties buying clothes due to the difference in size between their upper and lower half of the body.

Lipedema Upper and Lower Body Disproportion


Lipedema fat looks and feels different to normal body fat or lymphedema, feeling soft, cool, dimpled, and is frequently mistaken for cellulite.

The fat is distributed unevenly in the legs and buttocks instead of in a regular pattern. It’s also common for there to be a fatty area on the inside of the knees and the outside of the hips. 

In contrast to Lymphedema, there is no oedema present in patients with Lipedema only, putting pressure on the affected area does not leave an indentation.

Ankle Cuff

‘Cuffing’ or ‘braceleting‘ at the ankles or wrists is extremely normal with Lipedema. The feet and hands are usually spared and appear normal. This means the buildup of fatty tissue suddenly stops before the ankles or wrist resulting in a ‘cuff’.

In the majority of cases, there is also loss of ankle definition. Many Lipedema sufferers complain about ‘cankles’, meaning that the calves seem to merge into the ankles.

Lipedema Ankle Cuff

Family History

Due to Lipedema being passed down through generations, it is likely that another female family member may suffer from Lipedema too. 

However, this isn’t the only known cause for Lipedema, hormonal factors such as puberty, taking contraceptive pills, pregnancy and menopause also play a huge part in its onset and progression.

Pain and Discomfort

Unlike normal weight gain caused by over-eating or lack of exercise, Lipedema fat is often (but not always) painful, sensitive, heavy and hurts when banged, scraped or when pressure is applied, even gently.

There doesn’t appear to be a clear correlation between the size of areas affected and how painful the tissue is.


Most women with Lipedema, especially in the latter stages, describe their legs as being heavy, big and swollen.

As the condition progresses, fat accumulation continues to build up, and the lower body grows heavier. 


It is often noted that women with Lipedema also bruise easily. Many women experience frequent bruising on the affected limbs and cannot pinpoint how or when it occurred.  

Lipedema Bruising


Legs and other affected areas frequently ache and feel uncomfortable, swelling associated with Lipedema may become worse in the afternoon, evening, after physical activity or in hot, humid weather.

Varicose Veins

It’s extremely common to have small varicose or spider veins on Lipedema tissue. Lipedema is caused by a fault in the lymphatic system which is intrinsically linked with vein issues. You can read all about Lipedema and varicose veins here.

No response to diet and exercise

Lipedema adipose tissue is usually not responsive to traditional methods of diet and exercise, thus invasive techniques such as WAL Liposuction are required to remove the diseased fat completely.


Over time, Lipedema fat cells block the vessels of your lymphatic system, which normally helps balance body fluid levels and protect against infection. This blockage prevents the proper drainage of lymph fluid, leading to a buildup of fluid called Lymphedema. 

Lipedema vs Lymphedema

Physical Activity

The buildup of fatty tissue in the legs can impair normal movement, the legs feel heavy and may also rub against each other. Joint pain, especially in the knees or hips is also common. Therefore, people with Lipedema may find it difficult to walk or participate in physical activities, exercise and many other aspects of everyday life.

Mental Health 

Restrictions in mobility may contribute to women with Lipedema developing low self-esteem, body dysmorphia and other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Lipedema and Mental Health Issues

There you have it, a full breakdown of the symptoms to look out for if you think you may have Lipedema. If several of these characterises apply to you, it’s likely that you suffer from the condition. Nevertheless, it’s vital to get an official diagnosis from a medical professional, so you could reach out to your GP for help, or why not book a video consultation with Lipemedical to pinpoint once and for all if you suffer from Lipedema. Find out more here. 

Do you think there are any other typical symptoms of Lipedema that I’ve missed? Send me an email on sophie@lipedemaandme.com and let me know.

Disclaimer: My blogs talk about Lipedema, diet, surgery and much more. I’m talking from my point of view to help women, and remind them they are not alone. I am not a medical professional, so the content above is from my own perspective with research I have done into the topic. It’s not meant as medical advice, you should always consult your doctor or a specialist for both your diagnosis, and a treatment plan.

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