Our skin is one of our largest and most important organs, so it’s no surprise that many medical conditions can affect the way it looks or feels.
Two conditions that commonly affect the appearance of the skin are cellulite and lipedema. Although these conditions may appear similar at first glance, they’re two entirely different skin conditions.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the differences between lipedema and cellulite and explore the potential causes, symptoms, and treatments of each condition.
Cellulite and lipedema may seem like similar conditions, given how they both cosmetically affect the skin. However, there are a handful of key differences between these two conditions, including their appearance, symptoms, causes, and treatment.
|Appearance||swollen, dimpled, bumpy, or uneven skin||dimpled, bumpy, or uneven skin with no swelling|
|Causes||abnormal accumulation and deposition of fat cells||fat and connective tissue pushing and pulling the skin|
|Symptoms||swollen legs or arms, skin that’s spongy, sensitive, or easily bruised, chronic pain||doesn’t commonly cause any additional symptoms|
|Treatment||weight management, compression therapy, liposuction||lifestyle changes, radiofrequency treatment, laser procedures such as Cellulaze, Sculptra, Qwo, and Cellfina|
Both lipedema and cellulite can cause the skin to appear dimpled, lumpy, or uneven. However, lipedema is a more serious medical condition that requires treatment, while cellulite is a common cosmetic condition that’s harmless.
Lipedema can lead to debilitating symptoms if left untreated
Lipedema tends to cause more noticeable changes within the skin, including swelling of the limbs, especially in the lower portion of the body. It can also lead to debilitating symptoms if left untreated, including chronic pain and the inability to walk or move around easily.
Treatment for lipedema treatment should always be done under the supervision of a doctor.
Cellulite is a cosmetic concern and has no known health effects
Cellulite rarely causes symptoms and, in some cases, may be so mild that it’s barely noticeable. Even if cellulite is left untreated, it’s purely cosmetic and isn’t a known cause of any long-term health effects.
Below, you will find a more detailed background on both conditions, including the underlying causes of each condition, symptoms you may notice, and possible treatment options.
Lipedema is a condition in which fat is abnormally accumulated and distributed under the skin of the legs, thighs, buttocks, and arms. Lipedema causes the skin to appear swollen and dimpled, and it often causes tenderness, pain, or bruising in the affected areas.
Lipedema is considered a medical condition that requires treatment, as it can otherwise potentially lead to chronic symptoms and
Lipedema occurs in stages, with symptoms becoming progressively worse as the disease progresses. Depending on the stage, symptoms of lipedema may include:
- symmetrical swelling of the legs or arms
- skin that feels “spongy”
- skin that is sensitive to the touch
- skin that bruises easily
- skin that has excess varicose or spider veins
- consistent pain or swelling in the legs that changes or becomes worse throughout the day or with activity
While there’s no cure for lipedema, treatment can help reduce symptoms and stop the progression of the disease. Treatment options for lipedema may include:
- Weight maintenance. Eating a well-balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can help prevent further fat from accumulating. However, you should always speak with your doctor first before beginning a new exercise or diet plan.
- Skin care routine. Keeping a good skin care routine can help keep the affected skin feeling moisturized, which can prevent dry, painful skin from developing and leading to further complications.
- Compression therapy. Compression socks, stockings, or other bandages applied to the affected skin can help reduce swelling, pain, and discomfort. Compression therapy can also be specialized to help your specific symptoms.
- Liposuction. In some cases, liposuction can help remove excess fat accumulation and improve symptoms and overall quality of life. However, this is a surgical procedure, so you should always weigh the risks and benefits before moving forward.
- Surgery. In some severe cases,
surgical debulkingmay be necessary.
Cellulite is a skin condition in which fat cells push against the skin while connective tissue pulls them down, causing a dimpled appearance in the skin. Cellulite commonly appears on the thighs, buttocks, and other areas where there may be a higher accumulation of fat cells.
Unlike lipedema, cellulite isn’t considered a medical condition and is purely cosmetic. It can affect anyone of any size and isn’t usually a cause for concern.
Cellulite can cause the presence of small “dimples” in the skin, especially when the skin is squeezed or pinched. Generally, these dimples can cause the skin to appear as bumpy or uneven, although this often depends on how shallow or deep the dimples are.
Although cellulite isn’t dangerous, many people find themselves concerned about their skin’s appearance and seek treatment for it.
It’s worth noting that treatment for cellulite isn’t as simple as “losing weight.” In fact, cellulite isn’t always due to increased presence of body fat. Instead, it’s due to the way fat is distributed in the skin and tethered down by collagen. The more fat you have in an area, the more prominent it can be, but even thinner individuals can have cellulite.
Treatment options for cellulite may include:
- Topical treatments. Creams and lotions can potentially help reduce the appearance of cellulite. Caffeine and retinol are two ingredients that have been shown to be beneficial for reducing cellulite. Caffeine helps tighten the skin, while retinol helps thicken it.
- Medical treatments. According to the
research, medical procedures for cellulite generally involve targeting either the fat cells or the connective tissue to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Acoustic wave therapy, vacuum-assisted precise tissue release, and laser procedures such as Cellulaze, Sculptra, Qwo, Cellfina, and subcision have all been shown to be the most effective medical treatments for cellulite.
- Lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes, such as eating a well-balanced diet and enjoying frequent physical activity, may help to reduce the appearance of cellulite. However, everyone’s body is different, and there’s no specific diet or weight loss program that can specifically “target” cellulite.
Lipedema and cellulite are two separate health conditions, both of which can cause noticeable changes to the appearance of the skin.
- Cellulite causes solely cosmetic changes to the skin and doesn’t usually require treatment.
- Lipedema is a medical condition that should be treated to avoid long-term symptoms and complications.
If you’re concerned about any changes to your skin, including skin that’s dimpled, bumpy, or otherwise uneven, visit a doctor to discuss treatment options.