First up, Lipoedema is an inherited disease that is often unrecognised an undiagnosed.
So what is lipoedema?
Lipoedema is a bi-lateral (and symmetrical) limb swelling mainly affecting the legs and thighs (but sometimes arms too) and is thought to occur as a result of an abnormal accumulation of fat cells in the tissues under the skin.
Women (and it effects mainly women) generally present with very large lower limbs that are similar in shape and size on both sides. There is often a very distinctive pad of fat below the knees and many patients have a similar area on the thighs that can resemble a ‘saddle bag’ in appearance. The thighs, hips and buttocks often tend to be disproportionate (much larger) than the rest of the upper body and the feet (and hands) are hardly ever affected.
The tissues of the limbs appear to be very loose and ‘floppy’ and are often very tender or painful to touch. Bruising occurs easily and spontaneously (without any apparent cause).
Other common features are painful knees, which tends to cause increased discomfort and disability.
Due to the abnormal amount of fat under the skin, it can appear pale and feel cold to touch when compared to the unaffected parts of the body. Bulging fat can often lead to a ‘mattress effect’ on the skin, often described as Cellulite.
At present, we do not understand why lipoedema occurs, but a family history suggests a genetic basis. It seems to affect females and it is usually first noticed when there is a hormonal change such as at puberty or pregnancy, or even the menopause.
I really love this graphic from the Lipedema Project. It encapsulates everything stated above in a fantastic visual form. I also encourage you to read this information so you can become informed about your disease.
Lipoedema is a condition that is little understood and is often inaccurately diagnosed – or even misdiagnosed – by the medical profession. It is often mistaken for other conditions, in particular lymphoedema, as well as obesity. This happens most frequently in the later stages of the disease when the fat obstructs the lymphatic drainage leading to a mixture of lipoedema and lymphoedema, sometimes called lipo-lymphoedema. In this instance, patients may be offered treatment for lymphoedema, but the underlying lipoedema can often be missed.
We treat with the same premise as Lymphoedema, with Manual Lymphatic Drainage (to the pain tolerance levels), compressions garments (again within the pain tolerance), skin care, deep diaphragmatic breathing and gentle exercise.
The best place to go to understand your disease an options available is from the Lipedema Project Website – the Lipedema Project are the internationally recognised advocacy for Lipoedema (or Lipedema as they say in US), click here.
As I discover sources closer to home, I will link to this page and also my Helpful Information page.