Lipedema (also referred to as lipoedema) is a frequently misunderstood chronic medical condition that affects a staggering 370 million women worldwide.
What exactly is lipedema (lipoedema)?
Characterised by the abnormal accumulation of fat in particular patterns out of the hip, upper and lower legs and arms , lipedema often brings about significant pain and functional limitations. It is frequently accompanied by discomfort, swelling and also heightened susceptibility to bruising.
What causes lipedema? What are the symptoms of lipedema?
Despite ongoing research efforts, the exact cause of lipedema remains elusive. Lipedema can affect people who are of healthy weight, too, not just people who are obese.
Symptoms of lipedema often worsen during pivotal life stages like puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. This suggests there may be hormone influence in the causation of lipoedema, while some individuals inherit lipedema from their families. Symptoms of lipedema (lipoedema) can lead to reduced mobility and psychological issues, such as low self-esteem.
Are there lifestyle changes or treatment that can help manage the symptoms?
Despite efforts including exercise, weight loss and physical therapy, managing the affected areas remains challenging for most lipedema patients. Unlike typical fat, the pathological fat in lipedema patients exhibits poor responsiveness to standard weight loss methods.
How do I know if I have fat legs or lipedema (lipoedema)?
“Fat legs” is a common complaint amongst ladies with pear-shaped body types; it denotes an excess accumulation of localised and stubborn fat in the lower extremities compared to other body regions. It is generally influenced by genetics, dietary habits and levels of physical activity.
In patients with lipedema, it typically causes pain and tenderness in the affected areas, while “fat legs” are often devoid of such sensations. Lipedema also manifests as disproportionate swelling in the affected areas and tends to bruise easily, while those affected by “fat legs” do not encounter such issues.
How is lipedema (lipoedema) different from regular fat distribution?
In individuals with lipedema, fat distribution differs from that of normal fat, often resembling tumour-like growths and causing significant tenderness upon touch. The fatty deposits typically concentrate on the upper and lower limbs and knees, resulting in discomfort during movement and potential damage to the knees, ankles, and feet over time.
Lipedema symptoms tend to progress gradually, therefore necessitating timely intervention and management.
What are the key characteristics of lipedema?
- Fatty deposits primarily in the legs, occasionally in the arms
- Symmetrical involvement of both legs and/or arms
- Presence of painful fatty deposits
- Risk of gait abnormalities and skeletal complications over time
- Exacerbated by obesity, though it may or may not be directly associated with it
- Lipedema (Lipoedema) may sometimes be worsened by lymphedema.
- Patients may have increasingly worsened swelling in the legs during the day and improve overnight.
What is the difference between Lymphedema vs Lipedema (Lipoedema)?
It is crucial to differentiate between lipedema and lymphedema, as they represent distinct medical conditions, and the treatment modalities differ despite both involving swelling in the limbs.
Lymphedema arises from dysfunction within the lymphatic system, leading to compromised lymph fluid flow, while lipedema primarily involves the pathological deposition of fat, predominantly affecting the lower extremities and occurring in women.
Alleviating symptoms and remove fat: Lipedema Surgery
Lipedema can be effectively addressed through lipedema surgery with the MDC-Sculpt®️ Lipo Technique, offering relief and improved quality of life for women with “painful fat” disease .
The procedure is carried out under local anaesthesia with the patient under twilight sedation in an accredited Day Surgery Center in Singapore. The aim of lipedema surgery is to correct and remove the abnormal fat tissue of lipedema.
Lipedema surgery with the MDC-Sculpt®️ Lipo Technique removes “sick fat” (adiposopathy), alleviates physical symptoms such as pain and slows the progression of the disease. According to Anna-Theresa Bauer from Technical University Munich in Germany and colleagues who conducted an online survey of 209 female patients, the majority of lipedema patients who underwent liposuction reported that liposuction has led to a significant reduction in pain, swelling, tenderness, and easy bruising .
Post-liposuction MLD therapy and compression garments over several weeks to months are equally important to prevent oedema or fluid retention after that. Post-operatively, most lipedema patients experience a significant improvement in their symptoms, albeit with varying outcomes.
Lipedema is made worse with weight gain or obesity. Hence, it is essential to avoid weight gain, or even better, to start losing weight after treatment to prevent recurrence.
- Bauer, Anna-Theresa M.D.; von Lukowicz, Dominik M.D.; Lossagk, Katrin M.D.; Aitzetmueller, Matthias M.D.; Moog, Philipp M.D.; Cerny, Michael M.D.; Erne, Holger M.D.; Schmauss, Daniel M.D., Ph.D.; Duscher, Dominik M.D.; Machens, Hans-Guenther M.D., Ph.D.. New Insights on Lipedema: The Enigmatic Disease of the Peripheral Fat. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 144(6):p 1475-1484, December 2019. | DOI: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000006280