Lipedema is now recognised as a medical condition. Women with lipedema have for years been told they are fat and need to diet and exercise in order to manage the fat distributed on their hips and legs. We now understand that no amount of dieting or exercise will shift the fat cells that create the condition now known as lipedema.
Patients with lipedema frequently report:
- Becoming aware of big and/or heavy legs from the age of puberty.
- Having a soft movable fatty layer from hip to ankle. The foot remains unaffected.
- Finding massage to the legs and buttocks excruciatingly painful.
- Bruising easily.
- Exercise and diet change the upper body but both legs and hips seem resistant to any efforts at weight loss and firming.
- Having a family member (mum, aunt, granny) who has ‘heavy legs’.
- Hyper-mobility and flexiblity eg: easily touch their toes. This hyper flexibility can cause joint problems later in life, especially with the knee joint.
Conservative and preventative treatment for lipedema is geared around compression and healthy lifestyle. Even though diet does not directly improve the lipedema itself, weight management and fitness are crucial to overall managing lipedema. Good muscle tone and overall fitness are vital.
Ideally, compression in the form of ankle-to-waist stockings should be worn daily. This gives an external compression that contains the fatty tissue making mobility easier in advanced cases; it assists with lymphatic flow and slows progression of the disease.
It can be difficult for lipedema patients to accept compression in the early stages. Once a patients mobility and psycho-social outlook is affected by lipedema they are more open to the benefits of compression. In fact, most patients love their compression once they feel the difference.
Liposuction is the surgical treatment open to patients. Care should be taken to in choosing professionals who are experienced in dealing with lipedema.
Click on the image below to go to the Lipedema Project website.