How Is Lipedema Diagnosed?

A lipedema-trained physician, using history and physical examination, can diagnose lipedema if a constellation of many signs and symptoms are present:

  • Excess symmetric fat on hips and legs; feet are spared
  • Disproportionate fat in legs compared to trunk and abdomen
  • Arms can be affected, but not as severe; hands are spared
  • Hands, feet and head exhibit minimal fat deposits showing stark contrast to other areas
  • Fat is not responsive to caloric restriction, weight loss and/or exercise
  • Activity (recreational endurance) and activities of daily living become limited
  • Minimal pitting edema
  • Persistent enlargement of legs despite elevation, medications or weight loss
  • Pain and/or tenderness on palpation, disproportionate to exam
  • Vascular fragility, easy bruisability
  • Hypothermia of the skin, complaints of cold extremities despite environment
  • Palpable nodules of fat (marbled texture)
  • Joint pain in knees and hips in later stages from malalignment due to excessive fatty tissue.

Formal diagnosis by a trained physician will not provide specific insurance or medical benefits; it will, however, often lead to significant emotional peace for the patients, as well as an increase in knowledge and treatment options.

Here are different types of lipedema based on what parts of the body are affected.

There are also different stages based on how big the fat deposits have grown: