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Lipedema and Obesity - What's the Difference?

Lipedema is often misunderstood or mistaken for obesity. Although the diseases have different characteristics, they often occur together.

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Lipedema is a disease that is often misunderstood or mistaken for obesity or lymphedema. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the definition of obesity is based on the Body Mass Index (BMI). You can calculate your BMI as follows: Bodyweight (kilogram) : (Body height). A BMI of more than 30 kg/mmeans obesity, whereas a BMI of more than 25 kg/mmeans overweight. For the diagnosis of lipedema, the Waist-to-Height (WtH) ratio is more important than the BMI. The WtH ratio is beneficial to assess shape disproportions that are typical for lipedema.

In obese patients, the presence of excessive fat is associated with significant risks to their health: Overweight and obesity can both lead to chronic diseases of the heart and the cardiovascular system, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and also an increase the risk for some cancer types.

Lipedema and obesity have different characteristics that are summarized here:



Family history 

Affected areas 

Common signs

Complications and consequences

Although lipedema and obesity are two different diseases, they often occur together. Experts report that up to 85% of lipedema patients are obese. Obesity in lipedema patients also increases the risk to the develop lymphedema. It can be difficult to diagnose lipedema, differentiate it from lymphedema or obesity, or find out that two or more diseases occur together.