Lipoedema, not to be confused with lymphedema, causes an excess build up of fat in the legs or arms. Despite affecting up to 10% of women in the UK, this common condition is highly undiagnosed.
Patients with the condition often experience severe pain, and it can greatly impact their daily life. Here, we look at what lipoedema is, and the best ways to treat it.
What is lipoedema?
Lipoedema is a condition where an abnormal level of fat builds up in the legs or arms. It is more prevalent in women, and it tends to mostly develop in the legs.
The root cause isn’t known, but it is thought to start during puberty. Patients may not be aware that they have it until they go through pregnancy or the menopause. These events can exacerbate the condition, making it much more noticeable.
Those with lipoedema will typically look out of proportion. You may have larger hips and legs compared to the rest of your body. Or your legs could appear swollen, whereas your feet remain unaffected.
In some cases, people with lipoedema also have a vein disorder, which can complicate the condition and its treatment.
How is lipoedema diagnosed?
There are no specific tests to diagnose Lipoedema. Instead, physicians look at the symptoms you are experiencing. The most common symptoms include:
- An accumulation of fat in the legs and hips
- Tender legs
- Strange sensations within the legs
- A heavy sensation
- The legs become easily bruised
Lipoedema is known to run in families, and it can be difficult to diagnose. The main reason it is so highly undiagnosed is because it is mistaken for obesity. The trouble is, when left untreated, the condition tends to worsen over time. This can, in time, lead to permanent damage of the circulatory and lymphatic system.
There is no cure for lipoedema, but there are treatments available to ease its symptoms. Wearing compression stockings and undergoing liposuction are two options available. However, liposuction may not be available on the NHS, requiring more than one treatment, and it can result in a painful recovery.
The most common advice given to patients is to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. While this can help, in severe cases the condition will not clear up through dietary and exercise changes alone. This can impact on people’s quality of life as well as affecting their mental health. Support is available from the Lipoedema UK charity, which can put patients in touch with other people suffering from the condition.
In summary, lipoedema is a painful condition and the treatment for it can cause severe acute pain which on occasions continues as chronic pain. If you have been diagnosed with lipoedema, you will be able to see Dr Ivanova-Stoilova for assessment and treatment of your painful symptoms.