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Understanding the Differences: Lipoedema vs. Lymphoedema in Detail

April 14, 2024

Lipoedema and lymphoedema are two distinct medical conditions that can cause swelling in the limbs, but they have different characteristics and causes. Here are the key differences to help differentiate between the two:


  • Bilateral and Symmetrical: Lipoedema typically presents as a symmetrical and bilateral accumulation of fat, usually affecting the legs and sometimes the arms. 11 22 33 44 55 66 77 88 99 1010
  • Pain and Bruising: Patients with lipoedema often experience pain, tenderness, and easy bruising in the affected areas. 11 22 33 44 55 66 77 88 99 1010
  • Exclusion of Feet: Lipoedema usually spares the feet, leading to a ‘bracelet’ effect around the ankles where the swelling stops. 22 33 44 55 66 77 88 99 1010
  • Fat Characteristics: The fat in lipoedema is often soft and can feel ‘spongy’ or ‘cellulite-like’. 44 66 77 1010 1111
  • Gender and Hormonal Changes: Lipoedema almost exclusively affects women and is often associated with hormonal changes such as puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. 11 33 44 55 66 77 88 99 1010
  • Non-pitting Edema: The swelling in lipoedema is non-pitting, meaning it does not leave a dent when pressed. 22 33


  • Unilateral or Asymmetrical: Lymphoedema may affect one limb or be more pronounced on one side, although it can also be bilateral. 11 22 33 44 55 66 77 88 99
  • Fluid Accumulation: Lymphoedema is primarily a fluid-based disorder resulting from dysfunction in the lymphatic system. 22 33 55 66 77 88 99
  • Pitting Edema: Lymphoedema involves pitting edema, where the skin retains an indentation after being pressed. 22 33
  • Involvement of Feet: Lymphoedema often involves the feet and can lead to significant swelling. 22 33 44 55 66 77 88 99
  • Infections and Complications: Skin infections and open wounds are more common in lymphoedema compared to lipoedema. 22 33 44 55 66 77 88 99
  • Causes: Lymphoedema can be primary (hereditary) or secondary, often developing due to cancer treatments, surgeries, or infections that damage the lymphatic system. 33 44 55 66 77 88 99

In summary, lipoedema is characterized by bilateral and symmetrical fat accumulation, pain, and easy bruising, and typically does not affect the feet. It is almost exclusively seen in women and can be associated with hormonal changes. Lymphoedema, on the other hand, is characterized by fluid accumulation due to lymphatic dysfunction, can be unilateral or asymmetrical, involves pitting edema, and often affects the feet. It can result from hereditary factors or secondary causes such as cancer treatments or infections.

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