Lipedema is triggered by fluctuating hormones and most commonly seen with early stages of it affecting women in their 30's. This medical condition resembles other lifestyle concerns like poor diet and exercise and is frequently misunderstood as “weight issues” for most women.
In early-stage lipoedema, you may have heavy legs, a narrow waist and a much smaller upper body. You may have a large bottom, thighs and lower legs, but your feet will usually be unaffected. Sometimes lipoedema can affect the arms too, but the hands are not usually affected.
The exact cause of lipedema is unknown. But the condition runs in families and may be inherited. The condition occurs almost exclusively in people assigned female at birth, and usually starts or gets worse at the time of puberty, pregnancy or menopause.
It may take many years (more than 10) for the condition to advance to this stage. Eventually, fat deposits from lipedema may block or damage lymph nodes, preventing lymphatic fluid from draining properly.
Anecdotally, patients have not shown loss of lipedemic fat after extreme caloric restrictive diets. However, healthy eating is very important for people with lipedema as the growth of normal fat is thought to promote lipedema fat growth.
Weight loss will occur from the upper part of the body, but absolutely minimal improvement will occur from the areas below the waist affected with Lipoedema. Attempts at weight loss will often only exacerbate the disproportion between upper and lower body.
It has also been seen in women who have experienced major periods of stress or a traumatic life event that would cause a spike in hormones causing distress which then causes the onset of the Lipedema condition.
A person's skin appears normal and is smooth to touch. The person will have nodules of enlarged fat present underneath the skin. A medical professional can feel these nodules during an examination. A person with stage 1 lipedema may experience some pain and easy bruising.
It usually presents as excessive fat accumulation in the lower body, starting at the top of the iliac crest (the bones at the waist), while the upper body remains thin. If the upper body appears proportionately obese, it is not likely to be lipedema.
Early signs of lipedema begin with women noticing fat developing on the legs or thighs with less focus on their midsection. Lipedema is an excessive fluid buildup seen in the hips, legs, thighs, and buttocks. In rare cases, some women also show signs of lipedema in their upper arms. The fat itself is also different.
Because fat disorders and lymphedema can often feed into one another, exercise is a great option to help combat both. With its dual purpose of clearing out excess lymph fluid and burning fat, exercise offers exactly what patients need to deal with these disorders.
Estrogen, a key regulator of adipocyte lipid and glucose metabolism, and female-associated body fat distribution are postulated to play a contributory role in the pathophysiology of lipedema.
If you have lipoedema your legs become swollen, bruise easily, are tender and feel painful and uncomfortable. Lipoedema may occur because of changes in female hormones. The most common time of onset is around puberty or when there are other hormonal shifts such as during pregnancy and menopause.
Symptoms of Lipedema
The typical symptoms are a large lower half and column-like legs, which are often tender and bruise easily. For example, the top half of your body may be a size 8, but the bottom half may be a size 16. As the condition progresses, fat continues to build up, and your lower body grows heavier.
Your general practitioner (GP) or an experienced nurse is likely to be your first contact person when you notice any signs or symptoms of lipoedema. Your HCP will carry out a medical examination of your body, including your skin and soft tissues, and the function of the arteries and veins.
Liposuction is the only treatment available to lipedema patients that eliminates the troublesome fat deposits from the legs, hips, buttocks, stomach, and/or arms. Liposuction enables doctors to improve the look of the legs and restore better mobility for the long-term.
Venous Insufficiency and Veno-Lipo-Lymphedema:
The symptoms of Lipedema and venous insufficiency are similar. They both cause heaviness, tenderness, fatigue, and swelling. They often both have discoloration in the shins, easy bruising, and prominent veins.
Patients with lipedema (or lipoedema) can experience an abnormal buildup of body fat in different areas of the body. While this accumulation of lipedema fat occurs most in the legs, thighs, and arms, areas such as the stomach and the hips are possible too.
Cost. Lipedema is not currently recognised by Medicare as a rebatable medical condition, so surgery attracts no Medicare or private health insurance support and is very expensive.
Lipedema requires a clinical diagnosis, meaning that there is no standardized test such as bloodwork or imaging that can confirm the presence of Lipedema.
Aerobic exercises such as swimming, walking and cycling are especially recommended because they increase lymphatic drainage and improve blood flow through the affected limbs.
If left undiagnosed, it leads to more risk of health concerns and in most cases, emotional issues. Although Lipedema starts off as a cosmetic concern for women, if left untreated, it can have life-threatening consequences. Affecting up to 11% of women, Lipedema becomes a painful and, in some cases, crippling disorder.