Lipedema Treatment Options
Currently there is no known cure for Lipedema, but there are a number of therapies to decrease and manage symptoms. The chances of having success with these therapies are much greater when diagnosis is early.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Lipedema
A healthy diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight is important for someone who has Lipedema. If you have obesity coupled with Lipedema, mobility and pain may be a greater issue than someone who is not obese.
It is important to begin the discussion of compression garments early in the course of treatment as selecting the appropriate type is a very challenging task for a Lipedema patient.
Here are some considerations when choosing a compression garment:
- Compression class
- Custom-made versus ready-made
- Skin condition (Do you have sensitive skin?)
Lipedema treatments will have a complete decongestive phase (CDT), which is a process using massage techniques, exercise, compression, and sometimes additional skin care techniques.
The main component of CDT is focused massage techniques termed manual lymphatic drainage massage. This technique uses a scooping motion with the hand, applying pressure to manually guide trapped lymph fluid out of the affected limb or limbs.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)
MLD is a gentle massage in which a very light pressure is used to stimulate the lymph vessels that lie just beneath the skin. These vessels are small and thin, and as a result firm pressure in any one area can actually shut them down momentarily, so the gentleness of the pressure is essential.
Some therapists visualize this process as pushing the lymph fluid in the desired direction, while others see it as directing the flow by pulling the skin slightly ahead of the lymph flow. Either way, MLD is an important technique for moving lymph fluid out of the congested area and back into circulation in the center of the body.
After the initial decongestive phase, it is important to continue with maintenance therapy to prevent the return of swelling. This will include diligent use of compression garments during the day and elevation of the legs when in bed.
Sequential Pneumatic Therapy
Another device that can be very helpful and functions similarly to MLD is a sequential pneumatic pump. This device is used in the convenience of your home, and includes sleeves that are placed on the legs or arms, and a pump that inflates the chambers in the sleeves to stimulate the lymphatic system and encourage the fluid to flow out of the legs or arms.
The device is usually used twice a day, but your doctor and therapist will work together to establish a treatment plan that is appropriate for you.
Multiple nutritional supplements appear to be helpful in the management of lipedema. In some cases the reasons are known, but sometimes we just know they work but we’re not sure why. Below are some of the more common supplements we use, but there are many more that can help. This list will give you an idea of the goals when these medications are used.
Selenium: Decreases swelling and inflammation by reducing the adhesion or stickiness of cells, and blocking the production of free radicals (substances that damage tissues). Also helps the immune system function better to reduce infection.
Butcher’s Broom: Combats swelling by making blood vessels less leaky and decreasing their size.
Diosmin: Improves lymphatic function by decreasing vessel size and pressure, and increasing pumping action of the lymph vessels. Also makes tiny blood vessels less leaky
Quercetin: Maintains healthy blood vessel walls and decreases stress hormone release. It also improves cardiovascular health.
Fexofenadine: Decreases mast cell activation and modulates the immune system to improve the health the tissues and circulation in the affected areas.
Beta 1,3-D Glucan: Modulates immune system function to decrease infections and also decrease inflammation which has a major effect on the lymphatic system.
Surgical Treatments for Lipedema
All patients should be treated with conservative non-surgical therapies. However, many patients’ symptoms are not adequately controlled by non-surgical treatments such as compression and manual lymph drainage (MLD).
Women with Lipedema who have symptoms not adequately controlled by more conservative treatments, or those who have mobility issues, should consider Liposuction as an option.
Currently there isn’t a cure for Lipedema, but removing fat through liposuction can relieve the pain and discomfort associated with Lipedema for our patients.
One great point about the surgical methods mentioned below is that neither requires general anesthetic but instead uses only local anesthetic and light sedation. This means a lower risk for the patient.
Surgical Techniques for Lipedema:
- Tumescent Technique Liposuction
The Tumescent Technique is one of the most popular liposuction treatments, gaining in popularity due to the many benefits it provides. It is considered by many surgeons to be the safest form of Liposuction available.
Tumescent liposuction, unlike traditional liposuction, uses localized anesthetic instead of general anesthesia.
The localized anesthetic is much safer to use for patients, causing little to no complications when compared to general anesthesia. Cosmetic surgeons use a tumescent fluid to surround the fat being removed, using a cannula to dislodge it from the connective tissue and then suctioning it away.
- Suction Assisted Lipectomy
Suction assisted lipectomy is a highly specialized technique used in the treatment of Lipedema. Unlike conventional liposuction methods, during the suction assisted lipectomy procedure, fat is gently detached from the tissue structure without damaging the lymphatics, and then aspirated.
The surrounding lymphatic, connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels remain much less traumatized, which is extremely important in the treatment of Lipedema.
The main objective of the suction assisted lipectomy procedure is to alleviate pain, increase mobility, and prevent the progression of Lipedema, which can severely limit a patient’s activities of daily living.
Experts agree that suction assisted lipectomy for lipedema is not a cosmetic procedure but is instead absolutely medically necessary. Each patient is unique; therefore, results of treatment may vary.
Contact Us Regarding Treatment Options for Lipdema
If you know you have Lipedema or you identify with a 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.