Lymphedema is a condition that all people with lipedema should be aware of, because most people with lipedema have some amount of swelling so many of the treatments of lipedema are aimed at managing swelling. Some of those treatments include compression garments, pumps, MLD massage, etc. Also, people with lipedema can eventually develop lipo-lymphedema, where the person has both lipedema and lymphedema. Likewise, people with primary lymphedema can go on to develop lipedema; some articles call this lympho-lipedema.
Lymphedema can be broadly categorized as primary, meaning that it is something one is born with or develops through the aging process, or secondary, meaning that it is caused by another event like disease or trauma. A common example is secondary lymphedema inadvertently caused as a result of breast cancer surgery where lymph nodes are removed. In that case, the remaining lymph nodes near the armpit that drain the arm are insufficient to remove all lymph fluid from the arm. Over time, the arm can begin to swell. Some research shows that ‘lymphostasis’ (lymph not moving) creates an environment where fat cells can proliferate. MRIs of lymphedematous arms show a buildup of fat and fluid.
The main way to distinguish between lipedema and lymphedema is whether the hands or feet are involved. The diagnosis is complicated when both are present.
Treatments that are so far unique to lymphedema (and do not yet apply for lipedema) include Lymph Node Transfer (LNT) and Lympho-Venous Anastamatosis (LVA). LNT is just as named – literally moving a lymph node from one location to another. A specialized technique called “reverse node mapping” can be done to ensure the best possible lymph node is picked and does not create drainage issues in the area where it is taken from. LVA is the procedure that hooks a lymph vessel to a vein, which allows that lymph channel to drain into the blood stream.