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Lipedema is often misdiagnosed, resulting in treatment delays and recommendations for lifestyle changes – such as diet and exercise – that are ineffective in improving the condition. With years of experience working with lipedema patients, Dr. Larson is capable of quickly making an accurate diagnosis and composing an effective treatment plan that can deliver the relief you need as soon as possible.

The diagnostic process How we recognize lipedema

Dr. Larson diagnoses lipedema with a physical examination, along with a thorough discussion about your medical history.

During the appointment, Dr. Larson will look for the following telltale signs of lipedema:

  • A disproportionately large lower body
  • Excess fat that is unresponsive to diet and exercise
  • Thick, column-like legs
  • Legs that are painful or tender to the touch
  • Non-pitting edema (excess fluid accumulation) in the lower limbs
  • Nodules beneath the skin

What does a lipedema patient look like?

Because of the prevalence of lipedema misdiagnoses, it’s important for patients to be their own advocates by knowing what the condition looks like.

As a general rule, we have found the following to be true of typical lipedema sufferers:

  • Female patient
  • A family history of lipedema
  • Symptoms first appeared between ages 10 and 30
  • Excess fat is present in the buttocks, legs, thighs and/or arms
  • The areas are painful or tender when pressure is applied
  • The excess weight persists despite diet and exercise

After evaluating the areas of concern, Dr. Larson will ask questions about your condition, such as:

  • When did your symptoms first appear?
  • Have you noticed a progression in your symptoms?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain or tenderness?
  • Is your mobility affected due to the excess weight in your legs?
Diagnosing Lipodema In Tucson

Common Misdiagnoses

Because lipedema is poorly understood even by medical professionals, it is commonly misdiagnosed. Here’s a look at the two conditions that are most commonly confused for lipedema: lymphedema and obesity:


Lymphedema is swelling that occurs in one or both of your arms and legs. The most common cause is the removal of or damage to the lymph nodes during cancer treatment. However, the condition can also develop as a complication of lipedema.

Unlike lipedema, lymphedema can occur in both men and women, the area does not bruise easily, and there is no pain in the early stages. The feet are affected first, followed by the legs. In addition, Stemmer’s Sign is present with lymphedema, which is a thickened skin fold at the base of the second toe or second finger. Many patients have a family history and the condition does not improve with a healthy diet and regular exercise.


Obesity is a complex condition that involves an excessive amount of body fat. The main symptom is a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. The condition increases your risk of a number of serious diseases and health problems. Although there are genetic and hormonal components, the condition is generally caused by inactivity and unhealthy eating habits.

Many of our clients are initially told that they are simply obese before receiving a proper diagnosis of lipedema. Unlike lipedema, obesity can affect men or women, can occur at any time throughout your life, and is positively influenced by diet and exercise. It also affects the entire body – not just the legs. There is no pain, the area doesn’t bruise easily, and Stemmer’s Sign is absent.

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