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Lipedema is a chronic condition characterized by abnormal fatty tissue deposition, distinct from obesity, affecting around 11% of women. First identified in 1940 by The Mayo Clinic, it often manifests during hormonal changes like puberty, pregnancy, or peri-menopause.

Key Characteristics:

  • Bilateral, symmetrical fatty deposits in limbs, predominantly legs and arms, with a rarity in males.

  • Typically spares trunk, feet, and hands, unless accompanied by lymphedema.

  • Notable features include a palpable "bracelet" of fatty tissue above wrists and ankles, smooth skin with fat nodules, spider veins, skin infections, and reduced mobility.

  • Associated with depression and anxiety due to poor recognition.


Lymph fluid accumulates around fatty tissue, compromising the lymphatic system's integrity. Enlarged fat cells distort blood vessels, capillaries, nerves, and lymph vessels, leading to tissue engorgement, swelling, and eventual lipo-lymphedema when BMI exceeds 30-40.

Management: (Research into Lipedema Management is still evolving. This is what we know as of May 2024) 

1. Compression garments, though initially intolerable, aid in pain reduction.

2. Education in Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) for self-management.

3. Dietary measures targeting inflammation, though lipedema fat is unresponsive to traditional weight loss methods.  Here is an example of an anti-inflammatory diet. Please check with your physician before starting any new diet or exercise routine. Nutritious Eating to Reduce Lipedema

4. Exercise, especially aquatic, for pain management and optimal health.

5. Pain management strategies due to heightened sensitivity. I.e.. Medication, breath work etc.

6. Social support or counseling for psychological impact.

7. Dry brushing and Manual Lymphatic Drainage massage (if tolerated).

8. Consider supplements like Dr. Karen Herbst’s Protocol. Medicine and Supplements for People with Lipedema 

9. Surgical options: Specialized lipedema reduction surgery including Lymph Sparing Liposuction, are effective but require compliance with CDT procedures.

10. Use of Pneumatic Compression Pumps aid in the movement of lymph fluid and soften firm skin. It may also reduce pressure related pain.   



Lipedema develops in stages.The level of pain, tenderness, swelling and fat accumulation may increase over time. The image below provides an overview of the four stages of Lipedema, showing the location of fat build up and resulting body shape at each stage. Depending on the person, different parts of the body can be affected in different ways at each stage.

This staging criteria, although often used, does not take into consideration pain, size, impact on joints, loss of mobility, or other impacts to quality of life. Other criteria are sometimes used.

Lipedema progresses through stages, with varying pain, swelling, and fat accumulation. While staging criteria exist, they may not fully capture the condition's impact on quality of life.

As of May 2024 ½ stages have been introduced into the diagnostic protocol.


Diagnosis/Treatment Steps: We are currently unaware of  which  practitioners in B.C are specializing in Lipedema diagnosis, treatment and surgery. There are a number of doctors around the world that are currently treating Lipedema conservatively and with surgery. This is where we need YOUR help in our collaborative advocacy work to make this a future option.  


Lipedema Canada

Lipedema BC & Yukon Facebook group

BC Lymphedema and Lipedema Facebook Support Group 

Email Address:
Telephone:1-604-924-6282 Lower Mainland
1-866-991-2252 Toll Free
(Canada & USA)

Mailing Address Only:

BC Lymphedema Association
723 Donegal Place
North Vancouver, BC  V7N 2X6
(this is not a lymphedema clinic)

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