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Obesity and Weight Management

Can lymphedema be mistaken for obesity?



I am female. Age 45. I have had a steady weight gain problem that started three years ago. (I used to weigh 150. Today I weigh 195.) Sometimes I gain 5 pounds during the day, then loose it overnight. My calves and abdomen are swollen. My ankles swell at the end of the day.) My doctor said I am obese, and to loose weight. Could I have lymphedema? How is it diagnosed?


Lymphedema occurs when a dysfunction in the lymphatic system causes fluid to build up in the soft tissues of the body. The lymphatic system returns proteins, lipids, and water from the soft tissues into the venous circulation. Lymphedema can be mistaken for obesity because all that fluid in the soft tissue increases your weight. Individuals who are very obese can sometimes have lymphedema because the drainage in their lower extremities is poor.

However, I am concerned about your symptoms, as they can be a sign of other serious illnesses that affect organs like the kidneys or heart. I recommend you set up an appointment with your physician for a full examination.

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Response by:

Ihuoma U Eneli, MD Ihuoma U Eneli, MD
Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
Medical Director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University