Cellulitis, lipedema, lymphedema, phlebedema, edema and obesity - how are they different?

Cellulite is a condition that occurs mainly in the subcutaneous fat tissue and manifests itself as bumps, dimples, lumps and sometimes pain in the buttocks, thighs and hips. Cellulite is characterized by an excessive accumulation of fat cells in the subcutaneous layer, which leads to increased pressure on the surrounding tissue. This causes disruption of microcirculation, impaired drainage and increased levels of toxins in the tissue, which further worsens the condition. Cellulite tends to be more common in women than in men, and it usually has a genetic predisposition.

Lipedema is a chronic and progressive disease that involves the uneven accumulation of fat cells under the skin, especially in the limb areas. This condition can cause pain, swelling and increased sensitivity to pressure. Lipedema is more common in women and may have a genetic component. Unlike obesity, lipedema does not improve significantly through diet and exercise, although these lifestyle changes can help alleviate some symptoms. According to estimates, it affects 11-15% of women. Lipedema is often underdiagnosed and sometimes confused with obesity or lymphedema.

Lymphedema is a condition where lymph accumulates in the tissues and causes swelling. It usually affects the limbs, but can occur anywhere on the body. In Europe, an estimated 1-2% of the population has lymphedema, which includes both men and women. Worldwide, the number of people suffering from lymphedema is estimated at more than 100 million.

Phlebedema refers to problems with the blood vessels that lead to swelling and varicose veins. While exact statistics regarding phlebedema are not available, varicose veins, a form of phlebedema, affect about 10% to 15% of men and 20% to 25% of women. Phlebedema can affect the quality of life, either because of the aesthetic appearance or because of the pain and discomfort associated with the disease.

Obesity is a condition where excess fat tissue accumulates in the body. Obesity usually occurs in people with a high body mass index (BMI>30) and can be associated with the risk of developing other health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and many others. The cause of obesity can be genetic predisposition, improper diet, lack of exercise or a combination of these factors. Unlike cellulite and lipedema, obesity is characterized by a general enlargement of the body and not limited to one specific area of ​​the body.

Swelling occurs as a result of excessive accumulation of the so-called extracellular fluid in the body's tissues. They can have various causes, such as inflammation, allergic reactions, injuries, hormonal changes, disruption of the lymphatic system, or an excessive amount of salt in the body.

Women suffer from swelling more often than men because they tend to retain more water in their body, especially during the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy. Hormonal changes can affect fluid regulation in the body and cause fluid retention in tissues.

Edema also often occurs in people who lead an unhealthy lifestyle, such as those who are obese or those who exercise little and consume too much salt in their diet. In some cases, swelling can also be caused by a medical problem, such as heart or kidney failure.

It is important to notice swelling and consult a doctor, especially if it is large, painful, or occurs unusually often. In some cases, swelling can be a symptom of a serious health problem and require medical attention.

Author: MUDr René Vlasák


MD Rene Vlasak

Founder of the company Prevence 2000, the Preventive Medicine Center and the CPM Lymphocenter - one of the largest Czech workplaces specializing in the treatment of chronic swelling and varicose veins. As an obesitologist, he has long been devoted to the problem of gynoid (pear-shaped) obesity and so-called lipedema. In their therapy, he promotes a unique treatment approach. Throughout his professional life, he emphasizes the importance of primary prevention and a comprehensive, interactive concept of medicine. For his many years of active involvement in the Czech Lymphological Society, he was named an honorary member.

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