Lipedema is a relatively common fat disorder that is often mistaken for simple obesity. Its clinical diagnosis is an adipose tissue disorder or a lipid metabolism disorder. A typical lipedema patient is a woman who struggles with large hips and legs, usually out of proportion to the rest of her body. Lipedema also appears in the upper arms. One of the hallmarks of the disease is that lipedema fat is relatively unresponsive to diet and exercise. These measures may lead to weight loss in other areas, but the size of the hips and legs remains disproportionately large.
Lipedema is both an excess buildup of fat cells in a particular area, and the expansion of those fat cells. Swelling in the interstitial fluid between cells may increase during the day in patients with lipedema, but does not usually cause “pitting edema.” Patients often complain of tenderness or pain in the fat, and report that they are easily bruised. Lipedema is little recognized in the United States medical community, and many women go undiagnosed for years.