Stages and Types of Lipoedema

The symptoms of Lipoedema can be mild for some people, but for others the condition can have a hugely negative impact on the way they live their lives. Lipoedema has been classified into different types and stages, which clinicians may use during diagnosis. The four stages of Lipoedema focus on appearance and changes seen in the skin issue. The types of Lipoedema refer to parts of the body affected.


It’s important to note that Lipoedema is not automatically progressive, and early treatment can prevent it developing to later stages and types.
The condition may present at puberty, during pregnancy or around the menopause. All stages have a negative impact on the quality of life of an affected individual. Early recognition and treatment are vital to prevent progression and deterioration.

Stages of Lipoedema

There are four stages of Lipoedema, with Stage 1 being the mildest and Stage 4 the most severe. Stages relate to changes and appearance of the skin and tissues. The stages do not always describe or account for the severity of Lipoedema symptoms, such as heaviness and pain in those affected areas, or the impact Lipoedema has on daily life.

Stage 1

Skin appears smooth. On palpation, the thickened subcutaneous tissue may contain small nodules.

Stage 2

Skin has an irregular texture that resembles the skin of an orange (‘peau d’orange’) or a mattress. Subcutaneous nodules occur that vary from the size of a walnut to that of an apple in size.

Stage 3

The indurations are larger and more prominent than in Stage 2. Deformed lobular fat deposits form, especially around the thighs and knees, and may cause considerable distortion of limb profile.

Stage 4

Lipoedema with secondary lymphoedema.

Types of Lipoedema

Types of Lipoedema addresses which parts of the body are affected.

  • Type I Pelvis, buttocks and hips (saddle bag phenomenon)
  • Type II Buttocks to knees, with formation of folds of fat around the inner side of the knees
  • Type III Buttocks to ankles
  • Type IV Arms
  • Type V Lower legs

Descriptions are used according to the shape of tissue enlargement.

  • Columnar Enlargement of the lower limbs which become column-shaped or cylindrical
  • Lobar Presence of large bulges or lobes of fat overlying enlarged lower extremities, hips or upper arms

All stages have a negative impact on the quality of life of an affected individual. Early recognition and treatment are vital to prevent progression and deterioration.

To find out about how to get a diagnosis, click here.

For information about how to treat Lipoedema see a variety of options under ‘Treatments for Lipoedema’ on this website.

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