What Is Mild Lipedema?
Mild lipedema refers to the initial stages of lipedema. Those with mild lipedema should consider seeking treatment to prevent symptoms from progressing.
Our skin is the largest and one of the most important organs in our body. With that said, there are several medical conditions that can affect our skin and change its appearance. Two common skin conditions are lipedema and cellulite, which can make the skin look bumpy, uneven, and swollen. While these two conditions may appear similar on the surface, they’re completely different from one another. For example, lipedema can cause symptoms like pain and decreased mobility, while cellulite is purely cosmetic and poses no health concerns.
In this article, we’ll provide an in-depth look at lipedema vs. cellulite, so you can better understand the key differences, along with causes, symptoms, treatment, and more.
What Is Lipedema?
What Is Cellulite?
What Is the Difference Between Lipedema and Cellulite?
What Causes Lipedema?
What Causes Cellulite?
What Are Symptoms of Lipedema?
What Are Symptoms of Cellulite?
How Do You Treat Lipedema?
How Do You Treat Cellulite?
The Bottom Line: Lipedema vs. Cellulite
Lipedema is a loose connective tissue disorder where deposits of fat accumulate in the lower body, most often involving the buttocks, thighs, and calves. The upper arms can be affected. Lipedema does not affect the hands and feet. In most cases, patients living with this condition experience pain and edema, which is known as swelling.
Lipedema can be a debilitating condition, resulting in swelling and skin that’s more susceptible to bruising. If left untreated, lipedema can continue to progress, resulting in pain and sensitivity to the touch. Because lipedema is categorized as a medical condition, it will require ongoing treatment and management to prevent its progression.
Cellulite is a common skin condition that affects roughly 80 to 90 percent of postpubertal women and fewer men.1 Cellulite occurs when fat deposits collect in pockets beneath the skin, creating dimpled skin that resembles an orange peel or cottage cheese.
In most cases, cellulite forms around the pelvic region, typically the buttocks, hips, and thighs, and causes fat to create a lumpy appearance due to collagen fibers stretching, breaking down, or pulling tight. A key difference between cellulite and lipedema is that cellulite is purely cosmetic and doesn’t pose any health risks.
Lipedema and cellulite appear to be very similar to one another, as both can cause your skin to dimple and become uneven, sometimes referred to as a mattress appearance. However, the key difference between cellulite and lipedema is that cellulite is a cosmetic condition that doesn’t lead to any health conditions, while lipedema is a medical condition that can progress, resulting in pain, decreased mobility, and other symptoms.
Medical professionals have not been able to determine what causes lipedema. However, some evidence suggests that lipedema occurs after puberty, periods of hormonal change, and pregnancy,2 which suggests changes in hormones can be one of the leading causes, but more research is needed to support this claim.
Because lipedema is often misdiagnosed, knowing the potential causes can help you get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. If you’re experiencing pain, swelling, or weight gain during any periods of hormonal change, bring them up to your doctor. The primary goal of treating lipedema is to prevent it from progressing to later stages and reduce the cosmetic and physical effects so you can live a healthy life.
Cellulite is extremely common and can affect anyone of any size and body type. Additionally, cellulite can look drastically different from person to person. For example, someone with cellulite may exhibit very faint bumps and dimples that are barely noticeable, while another person may have deep and bulging fat deposits. There are a few potential causes of cellulite, including:
Cellulite does not cause any adverse health conditions, and most doctors find cellulite to be a natural condition for most women and some men.
Lipedema is a medical condition that can lead to severe symptoms if left untreated. This is why seeking treatment to find ways to manage your lipedema is important. Knowing the symptoms of lipedema can help you get a proper diagnosis earlier, so you can prevent the condition from progressing. Symptoms of lipedema include:
It’s important to note that lipedema often spares the feet and hands, and is also unaffected by a person’s caloric intake or diet. Additionally, the swelling may differ in each limb, making one leg appear larger than the other.
The symptoms of cellulite are fairly similar to lipedema. However, cellulite doesn’t cause any pain or excessive swelling. Some common symptoms of cellulite include:
While cellulite is most common on the thighs and buttocks, it can be found in other regions of the body, including the abdomen, breasts, and arms.
The primary focus of lipedema treatment is preventing its progression into later stages. Once a patient is diagnosed with lipedema, it becomes a lifelong condition. However, with the right treatment, living a happy and healthy life is possible. After diagnosis, your doctor might recommend the following:
At Tactile Medical, our Flexitouch Plus system is designed to treat and manage symptoms of lipedema at home. The Flexitouch Plus system is an advanced pneumatic compression device that delivers mild, dynamic pressure in 1-3 second intervals. This gentle work and release action helps stimulate your lymphatic system to increase the flow of fluids to reduce swelling and other symptoms associated with lipedema. The Flexitouch Plus system also comes with a trunk component to treat the hips and abdomen, along with an upper body and head and neck system. Talk to your doctor or lipedema specialist today to see if the Flexitouch Plus system is right for you.
Cellulite is a cosmetic condition that doesn’t require treatment. However, people with cellulite may be concerned with the appearance of their skin and seek treatment. Similar to lipedema, there’s no cure for cellulite, but there are ways you can minimize its appearance. Below are several ways you can treat cellulite:
Treating cellulite doesn’t mean you have to lose weight. Everyone has fat beneath their skin, and cellulite forms by the way fat is deposited and collagen ties it down. This means both larger-bodied and smaller-bodied people can develop cellulite.
Lipedema and cellulite are both distinct skin conditions that can pose similar skin alterations, such as dimples and unevenness. However, there is a stark difference between cellulite and lipedema. Lipedema is a medical condition that can result in pain, bruising, and swelling. On the other hand, cellulite is purely cosmetic and doesn’t result in pain or require treatment.
Lipedema requires broader treatment options to manage symptoms and prevent progression, such as lifestyle changes, complete decongestive therapy, and possibly liposuction, while cellulite can be treated through topical creams and different types of laser treatments. However, if you notice any symptoms of lipedema or cellulite, visit your doctor to ensure you get a proper diagnosis and discuss your treatment options.
If you’re living with lipedema, talk to your doctor today about Tactile Medical’s Flexitouch Plus system. With the Flexitouch Plus system, you can manage your symptoms of lipedema from the comfort of your home.
1. Sadick N. Treatment for cellulite. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2018;5(1):68-72. Accessed March 31, 2022. Published 2018 Oct 22. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2018.09.002
2. Lipedema Foundation. What Is Lipedema? Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.lipedema.org/