Lipedema, or lipodema, is a condition that appears like swelling in the legs; however, the feet of the patient remain normal in size. This disease occurs due to inflamed fat cells that lead to abnormal sensations in the tissues of hips, legs and buttocks. It may even impact arms, although it’s quite rare.
Generally, patients with lipedema have large legs and hips compared to their upper body and waist. Due to bulky hips and legs, the pressure on the legs causes significant pain that makes it uncomfortable to get massages or wear compression garments.
If you are suffering from lipedema and looking for treatment, here are certain things you need to be aware of about this condition.
1. Lipedema is ‘Fat with Fluid’
This condition is associated with fat cells and how one’s body processes these cells. These are known as “fat with fluid.” This means a patient with this condition will have fat cells with excessive fluid in them. It is often mistakenly diagnosed to be the result of being overweight or obese. However, in reality, this condition is more than just being obese.
2. It is not About Being Overweight
Lipedema is a chronic condition that usually affects women. While many consider it a condition affecting an obese or overweight person, weight is not the only factor that leads to this condition. Lipedema can even affect women who are not obese and who live a healthy life.
3. Lipedema is a Clinical Issue
Lipedema is not a lifestyle issue. Rather, it’s a clinical issue. This means that proper diet and exercise cannot change the size of the fat cells in this condition. Only your doctor can provide you with the right treatment to get rid of this condition.
4. It is a Genetic Disorder
According to different clinical studies, Lipedema is a genetic disorder. Generally, women suffer from lipedema if their grandmother or mother also had the same condition. Even males can be the carriers of this condition and can pass it on to their daughters, who further inherit this disease.
5. It is a Bilateral Condition
Lipedema is generally bilateral. This means if a patient’s one leg is affected, the other one will also bear the same condition. This is because the fat cells with fluid build-up are symmetrical. So, women are likely to experience this issue on calves, hips, arms, and legs.
6. Hormones Lead to this Condition
According to the research on lipedema, this condition is usually the result of hormones. Women who have inherited lipedema usually notice this condition around puberty, during perimenopause or after pregnancy. This is because, during these times, there’s a high flux of hormones that can lead to lipedema flare-ups
7. Lipedema is a Progressive Disease
This condition is generally slow to progress. But when left untreated, it can restrict one’s mobility and also increase pain in the legs. There are four stages of lipedema and can become life-threatening at the most advanced stage.
8. Stages of Lipedema
Stage I – In this stage, women generally experience some disproportion in their body. For example, a woman will notice her lower half becoming double the size of her torso.
Stage II – In this phase, the disease will start showing signs of skin changes. For instance, the skin will start appearing flecked or blotchy with a different patterned appearance. At this point, the body stops breaking down the fat cells but still produces excessive lymphatic fluid in the body.
Stage III – This stage shoes a significant change with affected areas becoming nodular or hard to touch. The fat cells begin to fill up with more fluid and there’s prominent swelling and pain in affected areas.
Stage IV – If the condition is not treated in this stage, the progression could lead to life-threatening consequences. There is pitted edema or severe swelling on the affected areas. If left untreated, this condition will further turn into Lymphedema.
9. Difference between Lymphedema and Lipedema
Lipedema patients usually have normal lymphatic function. However, patients with lymphedema are likely to experience swelling in the legs that often fluctuates. The legs seem to be smaller in the morning but larger by the end of the day. One leg may seem more swollen compared to the other one. Patients with lymphedema often have a dysfunction of the lymphatic system, making them highly vulnerable to cellulitis or infection of the legs.
10. How to Stop Lipedema from Growing
Here are certain ways to stop the progression of lipedema:
Exercise: Swimming, walking or biking may reduce the painful symptoms of lipedema.
Compression garments: These garments like compression stockings or tights can provide some relief.
Diet: Lipedema patients can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet.
Despite its impact on a patient’s quality of life, lipedema is not considered a life-threatening condition. With a proper diet and exercise routine, this condition can be managed well, just like any other chronic condition. You must contact a doctor when you start noticing any of the above-mentioned signs or symptoms. The doctor will prescribe you the right treatment to improve this condition.