How Common Is Lipedema?

The short answer is that Lipedema is not rare, or at least certainly not as rare as it is diagnosed. It’s also not super common. Certainly, most women do not have lipedema. To get a more detailed or slightly scientific answer takes a few more words and context.

Estimates for the prevalence of Lipedema vary widely. The estimates range from less than 1 % of the female population based on an estimation by a Dermatology Department in the UK up to 11% of the female population based on the experience in one referral clinic in Germany .1,2

Let us look into the details a bit more. The child looked at the diagnosis of lipedema in a regional Dermatology department in London and found that lipedema was diagnosed in 0.014% of women in the clinic. This percentage is low for a couple of reasons. Although the awareness of lipedema is greater in Europe than in North America, it is still not that well recognized. Secondly, even in referral centers, the understanding of the clinical features of lipedema is lower than it should be.
The Foldi estimate of the prevalence of lipedema at 11% in Germany is probably high. Foldi and Foldi work in a lymphedema referral clinic. They are referred people from all over Germany who need treatment for lymphedema. Foldi estimated 11% referred for lymphedema had lipedema. It is common to confuse or mislabel Lipedema and Lymphedema in fact many patients with lipedema also develop lymphedema. However, 11 % of misdiagnosed lipedema were already women who had swollen legs. So if you are looking at women with swollen legs,
you should see higher than the average percent of the population of women who have lipedema.

This is a detailed and educated way of saying the exact prevalence of lipedema in women is not well known. It is probably in between 1% and 11% and more studies are needed better estimate the percentage prevalence of lipedema.

 

References:

Child AH, Gordon KD, Sharpe P, et al (2010) Lipedema: an inherited condition. Am J Medical Genetics Part A 152A: 970-76.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20358611
 
Földi E, Földi M. Lipedema. In: Földi E, Földi M, (eds) (2006) Textbook of lymphology. Elsevier: 417-27  https://www.elsevier.com/books/foldis-textbook-of-lymphology/foldi/978-0-7234-3646-1
 
Szél E, Kemény L, Groma G, Szolnoky G (2014) Pathophysiological dilemmas of lipedema. Medical Hypotheses 83(5): 599-606.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25200646

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Meet Dr. Thomas Wright, medical director of Laser Lipo and Vein Center. Dr. Wright is a board certified Phlebologist and cosmetic surgery specialist, with over 15 years of practicing experience. A graduate of the University of Missouri Columbia medical program, Dr. Wright was one of the first two hundred surgeons to become a diplomate in Phlebology.

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