What is lipedema?
What is lipedema?
Lipedema is a condition where fat is distributed in an unusual way in a certain area of the body. For some patients, there condition only poses a mild cosmetic concern, while other patients can encounter more advanced symptoms such as pain and overall discomfort.
Unfortunately, many patients with the condition are often wrongly diagnosed as being overweight. However, the condition does have some typical symptoms that indicate the patient suffers from lipedema and not overweight. Patients with lipedema also encounter pain and bruise easily, symptoms that indicate a more chronic underlying condition.
How do I know if I have lipedema?
The irregular distribution of fatty cells in certain areas of the body can point to lipedema. However, to be diagnosed with the condition also means you will have some other tell-tale signs of the chronic condition.
Some of the most common symptoms that occur in patients with lipedema include the development of spider veins, bruising and significant calf swelling over the course of the day. Patients can also encounter a fold of skin that can be pulled over the second and third toe.
Lipedema is also a condition with a symmetrical quality. For example, if the condition is noticeable in the legs, then both legs will show similar signs of abnormal fat distribution. However, as the condition is often mistaken for obesity, people with lipedema usually get treatment in the later stages.
When the condition remains untreated, the lipedema fat can start to affect the patient’s lymphatic system and lymphatic drainage. As the fat tissue starts the block the lymphatic system, fluid level regulation and infection protection become negatively impacted. It eventually leads to a problem called lymphedema, which will be discussed later on.
The exact causes of the condition are currently unknown. However, it is known that women with lipedema are more common than men with the condition. Scientists currently believes that female hormones may play a significant role in the development of the condition, but there is not enough evidence to support this at this present time.
How to treat lipedema?
There are various treatments that can be implemented for lipedema; this includes lymphatic drainage and compression techniques in less severe cases. However, most patients with the condition eventually choose tumescent liposuction or water jet assisted liposuction. Various areas can be treated with this technique; this includes the legs and thighs.
Many researchers believe that exercise and skincare are vital during lipedema but also after the condition has been treated with liposuction. Exercise is usually associated with weight loss, but in patients with lipedema it can reduce fluid build-up and increase their mobility. Proper skincare, on the other hand, can reduce the chance of infection caused by the typical lipedema swelling.
Shortly after the procedure, the use of compression garments is recommended. This is not only recommended for lipedema sufferers, as the compression garment is used often after liposuction; this to let the body conform to its new shape but also to reduce side-effects such as bruising and swelling.
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What type of doctor treats lipedema?
There are various health professionals that can diagnose the condition, provide advice, and deliver treatment. Dermatologists, cosmetic surgeons and endocrinologists are known to provide the necessary diagnosis and treatment options. If you suspect you may suffer from the condition, you can also contact your GP for advice and a possible referral.
What are the stages of lipedema?
Each lipedema stage is characterised by specific symptoms. Below, you will find an overview with details for each of the stages.
Stage I – During this stage, the surface of the skin remains smooth. However, the fat underneath the skin becomes thicker and will have a knotted texture. During this stage, the condition is usually most noticeable around the buttocks and the hips.
Stage II – When lipedema evolves to the second stage, the surface of the skin will become uneven. The knots in the subcutaneous fat also become more noticeable. Stage II usually influences the knees.
Stage III – This stage is characterised by larger fat lobes that are noticeable underneath the skin and sometimes on the skin’s surface. The condition also spreads from the hips to the ankles.
Stage IV – Stage four is the most severe stage of the condition. During stage four, the condition can start to influence the arms and can even lead to lymphedema.
What is lipedema and lymphedema?
Lipedema falls under the category of fat disorders, while lymphedema can be a consequence of this lipedema. As explained earlier, the accumulated fat can reduce the effectiveness of the lymphatic system.
Lymphedema is a separate condition from lipedema, but it shows many similarities. The condition is characterised by swelling the arms and the legs. It can be caused by a block in the lymphatic system, which means fluid cannot drain from certain areas of the body as effectively. Symptoms of the condition include swelling, limited mobility, pain, regular infections, and fibrosis of the skin (thickening of the skin). Like lipedema, lymphedema is a condition that can range in severity. Some cases can be quite mild, while others are severe and impact the patient’s daily life.
A condition such as lymphedema can be divided into two categories: primary and secondary lymphedema. Primary lymphedema is caused by inherited illnesses such as Milroy’s disease, Meige’s disease, and hereditary late-onset lymphedema. Secondary lymphedema is caused by damaged inflicted to the lymphatic system; for example, by conditions such as lipedema, surgery, radiation treatment, cancer, and severe lymph node infections.
If you believe you suffer from lipedema or lymphedema, it is important to seek medical care as soon as possible. When diagnosed, the condition can be managed, and its progress greatly reduced. Treatment can also be sought with an experienced cosmetic surgeon for lipedema-related cases.