Diagnosis and management of lipoedema in the community

Br J Community Nurs. 2016 Oct;21(Suppl 10):S6-S12. doi: 10.12968/bjcn.2016.21.Sup10.S6.


Lipoedema is a chronic progressive adipose disorder that affects mainly women and presents as symmetrical enlargement of the buttocks and legs. It is commonly misdiagnosed as obesity or lymphoedema, but careful assessment will reveal a disproportionate enlargement below the waist which is resistant to dieting, sparing of the feet, legs are tender or painful to touch and bruise easily, there is occasional orthostatic oedema, and there is often significant psychological morbidity. Lipoedema is a oestrogen-regulated condition with onset around puberty in 78% of women, and there is often a strong family history. The condition is exacerbated by weight gain and there is increasing anecdotal evidence that women who are obese are seeking a diagnosis of lipoedema, either to procure NHS funded manual lymphatic drainage, or to medicalise their obesity and avoid acknowledging that the responsibility for their weight gain is lifestyle orientated. Management of lipoedema consists of accurate diagnosis, psychological care, management of orthostatic oedema, and prevention of progression through skin care and weight management.

Keywords: compression; lipoedema; self-care.

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Nursing
  • Edema / diagnosis
  • Edema / nursing*
  • Edema / therapy
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Lipidoses / diagnosis
  • Lipidoses / nursing*
  • Lipidoses / therapy
  • Nursing Process
  • Stockings, Compression