Kristin Osborn's

Newcastle Lymphoedema & Lipoedema Clinic

Treatments and Education

"All Swell that End Swell"

What Is Lipoedema

Lipoedema is a form of lipodystrophy (pseudo edema), involving the accumulation of abnormal deposits of adipose (fatty) tissue in the subcutaneous layer of the skin. This is a continuous process.

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First identified at the Mayo Clinic in the United States in 1940, Lipoedema is barely known to physicians or to patients that have the disease.

Estimates vary widely but range as high as 11% of the post-puberty female population has the disease.

Main Characteristics

  • It usually is inherited
  • It occurs almost predominately in women
  • It occurs from the anorexic – morbidly obese
  • It occurs bilateral and symmetrical from the waist to the ankles, Stemmer’s Sign (edema of the forefoot and toes) is negative
  • Lipoedemic fat cannot be lost through excessive diet or exercise, often this makes the condition worse
  • Is usually triggered around Puberty, Pregnancy, Pre-Menopause and following Gynecological Surgery
  • Patient’s will gain weight in lipoedemic areas, (Around hips, thighs, upper arms and abdomen) and lose it in non-lipoedemic areas, (face & breasts).
  • The basic profile of sufferers look like a size 8 from the waist up and a size 16 from the waist down
  • In males it is “rare”, only because males do not get cellulite. In my clinic I have noted several males with symptoms stemming from their Lipoedemic Mothers. This needs further research.

Stages of Lipoedema

Stage 1: Visual inspection is normal. The surface of the skin is soft and smooth.

Stage 2: Large fatty lobules are seen when the skin is squeezed between two fingers. There are small skin deformities and uneven skin surface.

Stage 3: Inspection reveals significant deformation of the profile. Very large, excessive fatty lobules are present.

Comparisons: Lower Lymphoedema Versus Lipoedema

Lower LymphoedeamLipoedema
(Pre Lipo-lymphoedema)
Pre-Lymphatic Channels Usually Normal Abnormal
Sex Commonly Female Always Female
Laterality Uni- or Bilateral Bilateral
Symmetry Unusual Yes
Skin Deposits Firm Soft
Skin Temperature Warm Cold
Edema Present Minimal
Pitting Common Rare
Pain on Pressure Varies Yes
Fragility of Blood Vessels Rare Typical
Foot Involved Spared
Cellulitis Yes Rare
Response to Bandaging Tolerated Not Tolerated


  • Sufferers complain of heavy, aching legs.
  • They find it hard to tolerate compression garments associated with conventional lymphoedema treatment because the underlying lipoedemic fat is very painful.
  • Palpation is painful
  • Bruising is easy because of the fragility of vascular walls
  • Spider or Varicose Veins usually come hand in hand
  • Planter Fasciatis is a by-symptom due to the loading on the feet


Excessive Diet & Exercise won't work!

Lipoedema is often confused with obesity and patients are informed to diet and exercise which often leads to an increase in the problem.

If Lipoedema was diagnosed early, which currently is rare, it is possible to prevent a significant expansion of fat cells and alert patients to their heightened risk for obesity, if they become progressively less mobile, so they can take appropriate action.

These patients often sit in other categories of Obesity, Eating Disorders, and Depression due to lack of proper diagnosis. These patients come to me often confused about their condition; they develop low self esteem and are generally depressed as to the lack of answers they seek.

The true term Lipoedema is actually incorrect because in simple cases, true edema is absent. In advanced stages of development, Lipoedematous tissue may sometimes develop true edema. The resulting condition is called Lipo-Lymphoedema. The edema associated with Lipoedema has no pitting and there is no rise in temperature.

There is no cure for Lipoedema, so early diagnosis and education to pre-pubescent females and GP’s is crucial. Empowering these women with knowledge and understanding of their disease enables them to manage their problem more easily, gain self confidence and live a reasonably normal life.

Because I have this condition myself, I have developed a 7 Step Program of Treatment Combined with Education to help reduce and maintain sufferers symptoms so they can get on with their lives. Please use the contact page for any questions or to make an appointment.