[Differential diagnostics of lipedema and lymphedema : A practical guideline]

Hautarzt. 2018 Dec;69(12):1039-1047. doi: 10.1007/s00105-018-4304-5.
[Article in German]


Lipedema is a symmetrical disorder of the subcutaneous adipose tissue that affects almost exclusively women in postpubescent age. The trinity of disfiguring hyperplastic adipose tissue of the proximal extremities, increasing pain over time and bruising is characteristic. Lymphedema can occur in both sexes and is differentiated into primary and secondary subtypes. Symmetry is not a prerequisite for diagnosis. Characteristic for lymphedema is the disproportion between lymphatic fluid and the capacity of lymphatic vessels. The most distal body parts are always more severely affected than proximal parts. In the initial phases lymphedema is painless but in advanced stages tension pain can occur. The combination of both disorders has been described; however, lipedema is not responsible for subsequent lymphedema in contrast to central obesity, which significantly increases the risk of lymphedema. The differential diagnosis is of utmost importance for a meaningful management.

Keywords: Hematoma; Liposuction; Obesity; Pain; Treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipedema* / diagnosis
  • Lymphedema* / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Subcutaneous Fat / pathology