In this post, I’m going to review research performed by a group of researchers in Brazil. The article is called “Lipedema and the Evolution to Lymphedema with the Progression of Obesity”, and it was published in the medical journal Cureus in December 2020. The aim of this study was to look at the prevalence of lymphedema in patients with lipedema according to weight.
258 women with lipedema were enrolled in the study and were divided into 3 groups according to BMI. 98 women were in the first group with a BMI of less than 30. Group 2 included 124 women with a BMI of 30-40. Group 3 was 36 women with a BMI between 40 and 50. All of the women underwent bioimpedance to detect the fluid levels in their legs using the InBody S10 device.
Here are the results:
Group 1 (BMI less than 30): 16.3% had subclinical levels of lymphedema and 6.1% had developed clinical lymphedema
Group 2 (BMI 30-40): 48.3% had subclinical and 51.6% had clinical lymphedema
Group 3 (BMI 40-50): 72.2% had subclinical while 77.8% had clinical lymphedema
Elevated fluid levels were found in all BMI ranges in women with lipedema, even those who were not obese. The authors believe this indicates that fatty lipedema tissue exhibits important changes associated with the development of edema. Certainly, obesity can cause inflammation that can lead to swelling and lymphedema, but in this study, the swelling and the possible inflammatory process appear to not be completely related to obesity. The researchers do believe that obesity is clearly an aggravating factor, as the prevalence of subclinical and clinical lymphedema was significantly correlated with BMI.
The authors believe that the best management of lipedema would include effective lymphatic drainage techniques, such as manual lymph drainage and pneumatic pumps, and weight management.
This study had a relatively large sample size of over 250 women, and those with known comorbidities that cause swelling (such as congestive heart failure or kidney disease) were excluded. This data certainly seems to point to the conclusion that edema is present in a majority of women with lipedema and it is aggravated by, but not necessarily caused by, obesity.
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