Lipedema is known as a long term condition that affects women primarily. It causes a massive buildup of fat beneath the skin, usually among the body’s lower region, i.e. legs and hips. But in some cases, it affects the arms too. However, it does not affect the hands or the feet of the individual.
There are four main stages of Lipedema, and as the disease advances, so does the fat accumulation in the targeted region. In addition to the increased fat accumulation, the targeted areas also suffer from extreme swelling and pain levels.
Lipedema is a chronic condition with a few reports where men have contracted the disease. This condition can cause a lot of physical discomforts, but because there isn’t a lot of public awareness on this, it can allow such affected people to be a victim of emotional stress.
Therefore, in this article, we will dive deep and discuss what this condition is, what causes it, what are the symptoms, its possible treatment plans, and what relationship it has with other physical and health issues such as obesity.
Before we begin, it would be best if you knew that Lipedema and Lymphedema are two different conditions. Though both conditions are often confused, we will discuss what sets them apart.
Causes of Lipedema
The causes of Lipedema are unknown, and doctors haven’t discovered them well.
Nevertheless, it is taken more like a condition that is inherited/genetic and could run in certain families. In addition, some healthcare professionals believe it could also happen or trigger due to the female hormones since the condition mainly occurs in women.
The reason why some believe that hormones may be the culprit is that it starts to worsen during the following life stages of a woman:
- Around the time of menopause.
Even though Lipedema doesn’t get triggered or happens due to obesity, most affected people are overweight or obese.
Since Lipedema is a chronic issue in women, even dieting can’t aid in losing weight in the lower region. However, it can significantly reduce the upper part of those dealing with Lipedema.
Symptoms of Lipedema
Some of the Lipedema symptoms areas are mentioned in the list below:
- There is an increased amount of fat buildup in the calves, buttocks, legs, and sometimes in the arms.
- A feeling of constant pain and discomfort in the lower region of the body.
- As the condition worsens, the ability to walk around is drastically affected.
- Most patients are emotionally distressed due to their lower body growing at an alarming rate.
As the fat keeps accumulating or storing beneath the skin, there comes a time when the lymphatic pathway is blocked. The blockage of the lymphatic course causes an increase in the amount of a fluid known as lymph. This state is known as Lymphedema.
It is essential to remember that Lymphedema and Lipedema are two different things. Lymphedema is due to the excess buildup of the fluid lymph, and Lipedema happens due to the surplus fat stored.
Though Lymphedema doesn’t cause tender legs, it is possible to be affected by both Lipedema and Lymphedema at the same time.
Types of Lipedema
Generally, doctors and healthcare professionals divide Lipedema into five main types based on where the condition affects the body.
The five main types of Lipedema are as stated:
- Type 1 – when the fat accumulates between the bellies and hips. It covers the pelvis and buttocks region.
- Type 2 – when the fat is around the pelvis region, down to the knees.
- Type 3 – when the fat starts storing at the pelvis area until the ankles. A person affected by this type may have prominent fat around the ankle.
- Type 4 – when the fat spreads from the shoulders and continues until the wrist.
- Type 5 – when the fat majorly accumulates in the region of the calves.
Treatment of Lipedema
As for the treatment plans, there is no cure available for the disease itself. However, there are a few ways through which the symptoms of Lipedema are manageable.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a form of gentle massage that stimulates the movement of the lymph fluid around the body through rhythmic pumping movements.
This massage can help drain lymph fluid from all the crowded areas into the healthy vessels of the body. This helps in reducing the risks of scarring and increases blood flow. In addition, increased blood flow may help with pain reduction.
Compression therapy can also help control Lipedema. This treatment option includes using stretchy bandages or clothing items that aid in inducing pressure on the tissues located inside the swollen limbs.
Even though this is a cosmetic option/treatment, it may significantly reduce a person’s chances of having more fluid buildup in their limbs.
Liposuction is a highly effective way of controlling Lipedema. It happens when other options fail to manage the condition. Liposuction includes removing the Lipedema fat while sparing the body’s lymphatic vessels.
The process follows as a surgeon inserts an instrument under the skin during the operation. This instrument can break up the buildup of fatty tissues and remove them from the body with the help of a powerful vacuum.
There are two types of Liposuction known:
- The tumescent technique involves injecting a saline solution into the fatty substances before removing the Lipedema fat.
- Water-jet Assisted Liposuction (WAL): During this, the surgeon uses saline or Klein solution that releases the fat for Liposuction.
Lipedema is a chronic disease that has no cure available as of now. However, if one catches on to their symptoms earlier and seeks medical assistance right away, the patient will recover a lot better.
Unfortunately, one of the drastic consequences of living with Lipedema is suffering through poor quality of life. In most cases, Lipedema is misdiagnosed or misunderstood, which can negatively affect the person’s life.
If you believe that you have all the symptoms of Lipedema, then it would be best to contact your doctor immediately. This can help in controlling the situation rather than worsening it. In addition, one of the best ways to cope with this condition is to find support for people suffering from this disease. It may help the affected to balance them emotionally.