What is Lipedema?
Lipedema is a disease of abnormal fat deposition that is thought to affect as many as 17 million people in America, almost exclusively women. The cause is unknown but may be associated with changes in hormone levels.
Lipedema is a condition in which fat is unevenly distributed beneath the skin with the concentrated areas being the buttocks and legs, the feet are usually spared. It can often be mistaken as obesity or for a different lymphatic disease, lymphedema.
For most people who get lipedema, at first it can seem to be a cosmetic concern, however, it can eventually cause pain and if left untreated can be a very dangerous health concern.
What Causes Lipedema?
The exact cause of lipedema is unknown, however, doctors and researchers suspect female hormones play a role. The hormones are suspect due to the fact it affects almost exclusively women, it often begins/worsens after puberty, during pregnancy, following gynecologic surgery, and around the time of menopause.
Leakiness of small blood vessels and abnormal sodium transport has also been implicated.
There is also evidence the disease is genetic, as many women with the condition have family members who also have it.
Lipedema Symptoms and Signs
If you’re a healthy individual, the early stages of lipedema could appear to be simple weight gain affecting the legs and/or upper arms. However, when it enters a more advanced stage it will become obvious it is not just normal weight gain.
The first sign is the obvious one, which is having a smaller upper body and a disproportionately fatty lower body that doesn’t involve your feet. Your legs could resemble columnar trunks, or appear lumpy.
Deposits of fat could appear just below the knee and these fat deposits are resistant to weight loss, including bariatric surgery.
Listed Signs & Symptoms of Lipedema:
- Disproportionately larger/fatter legs and hips compared to the upper body
- Swelling is symmetrical (both sides of the body are affected equally)
- Fatty deposits that are resistant to weight loss
- Hands and feet are not affected
- Fat that looks like cellulite and feels nodular or lumpy
- Easy or spontaneous bruising to affected areas
- Skin of affected areas may be pale and cold
- Upper arms may also be disproportionately bigger
The Dangers of Lipedema
If left untreated, lipedema will worsen dramatically over time. Pain, decreased function, knee and hip arthritis may also result.
Fatty deposits can put pressure on your lymphatic system and effectively block lymphatic vessels which can lead to fluid build-up; and this build-up of fluids is called lymphedema.
You can also experience delayed wound healing; development of scar-like tissue called fibrosis, and hardened skin in the legs.
Lipedema Therapy and Treatment
To read more about treatment options for lipedema click here.
If you have lipedema or you identify with any symptom(s) don’t delay, contact Alabama Vascular & Lymphatic Specialists today. Your life may depend on it.
We provide the most comprehensive, progressive, and personal care available for Lymphatic diseases, including Lipedema, in the Birmingham, Alabama area.
During your visit our specialist(s) will review your medical history and develop a treatment plan to get you on the path to better health.