All About the Various Stages of Lipedema


Lipedema is a condition where abnormal fat will accumulate in the lower trunk and legs. It is often mistakenly diagnosed as obesity or lymphedema. But all lipedema is not the same; lipedema can be categorized into five types, each of which transitions through four stages. Read on to learn more about the stages and types of lipedema!

Stages of Lipedema

Stage One —The skin in the affected area is smooth and soft. Swelling in the area may increase during the day, but will be alleviated with rest and elevation of the legs and feet. You will start to have a disproportionate “pear” shape. The legs may still have their normal shape, but will appear larger.

Stage Two —During this stage, the skin will start to develop indentations. The subcutaneous tissues (layer beneath the skin) will begin feeling tough and nodular. The skin may take on the look and feel of an orange peel. During this stage, lipomas may appear. These are fatty lumps located between your skin and the muscle layer. Fat deposits will begin to form on the upper/lower legs and the ankles, causing the appearance of “cankles.” Skin infections and eczema can also start to form. The swelling will increase during the day as in stage one; however, it will be less affect by elevation and rest.

Stage Three — The connective tissues will become harder, and the swelling is consistent and does not resolve through leg elevation and rest. Large masses of skin and fat will appear that will cause deformations in the knees and thighs. The skin will take on a more advanced orange peel look. Cankles will become worse, and masses of tissues may start to form ridges and folds.

Stage Four —In this final stage, lymphedema will occur. During this stage, large masses of skin and fat will overhang, and the swelling is consistent. Large weight gains can occur, with mobility being affected. The legs can become stiff, and lymphatic fluid may leak.

Types of Lipedema

There are also different types of lipedema, identified by how the fat is distributed:

Type One — In the area of the hips and buttocks
Type Two — Buttocks to knees, with folds of fat forming around the inner knees
Type Three — Buttocks to ankles
Type Four — Arms
Type Five — Legs

Dr. Thomas Wright and his team at Laser Lipo and Vein Center are very experienced in diagnosing and treating lipedema. If you are concerned about this condition and wish to know more, please call us today to schedule a consultation.