What is Lipoedema?
Lipoedema, or Lipedema as the Americans like to spell it, is a painful hereditary disorder, which typically leads to a pattern of adipose tissue (fat) accumulation from the hips to the ankles, arms and often other parts of the body. Lipoedema may be found in women of all shapes and sizes.
How do you know if you suffer from Lipoedema?
Do you have BIG legs; excess fat in your thighs/legs, hips, buttocks, and/or upper arms? Do you have ankle cuffs? Do you have saddlebags? Are your legs tender or painful to the touch? Do you bruise easily? Do you have fat nodules, or fat pads, or lobules around your knees or thighs? You may have been told that you are fat, but you might have a little known and generally misdiagnosed fat disorder known as lipedema.
Follow the link below to the lipoedema quiz where 9 questions can help you determine if you might have lipedema. Early detection, treatment and management can prevent the progression of lipedema.
Symptoms of Lipoedema
- The legs are enlarged bilaterally – arms too can be affected
- The waist is small in proportion to thighs, buttocks and legs
- Feet and hands are exempt and a ‘bracelet’ effect can appear just above the ankles and wrists
- Legs/arms can be extremely painful, even to touch
- Affected limbs bruise easily
- The fat is soft to touch and wobbly, while skin can be cold to touch
- Lipoedema can become worse in hot weather
- Diet and exercise, while important, can have minimal effect
- Increase in Lipoedema is often noticed when significant hormonal changes happen
- Skin can have a cellulite or ‘mattress’ like appearance
- Skin on the legs and buttocks can be cold to touch.
What can I do for my Lipoedema
There are several treatment options available and most of the time a combination of these is used to best manage your Lipoedema. Pia, is a certified lymphoedema physiotherapist and can also assist you in the management of Lipoedema. Based on your individual needs she can advise you what treatments are likely to be most benificial to you.
Some of the treatment options available:
- Massage – helps to improve your mobility and move the fluids from the affected area. Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is found to be the most useful type of massage for lipoedema as it supports the lymphatic system and uses light touch which has no impact to the tenderness of the tissue. Pia is Dr Vodder trained in MLD.
- Compression – bandages are used to tightly squeeze (compress) the affected areas. Bioflect is a scientifically designed compression proven to assist with the pain, aching and swelling associated with lipoedema. Pia can help you with selecting the right type and size of compression.
- Exercise – low impact exercise such as swimming helps to increase your mobility and improve circulation. Other options are water walking, aqua aerobics, Pilates, lymphatic yoga, whole body vibration, rebounding exercise and resistance training. At Aspire we offer PERC exercise classes which may be suitable for you, otherwise Pia will be able to advise you which form of exercise is most suited for you.
- Pumps – Pneumatic pumps improves fluid removal and stretches the pre-adipocytes. Lymphapress optimal with bilateral pants seem to deliver the best results. Unfortunately this is not available in Bunbury at this stage, you can however trial and rent this from the Mandurah Oedema Clinic.
Surgery – This is the last resort when all other options fail. This is often to assist mobility and decrease pain, it is not an aesthetic solution and compression is required ongoing for maintenance of procedure or the condition will return. Some evidence exist that Vascular insufficiency occurs simultaneously to lipoedema and having Laser or sclerotherapy to veins first can help to support the lymphatic system prior to liposuction. Bariatric surgery can also be an adjunct as it is known that maintaining a healthy weight can help to control lipedema. Liposuction can then be done to get they weight off the legs to decrease pressure on hips, knees and ankles, decrease leg ache and assist with mobility. It is important that it is done by someone that understands lipoedema and uses the tumescent or water-assisted techniques as these best preserve the lymphatic system.
Further information and resources
There are multiple online resources available for more information and help, for example:
- Lipoedema Australia
- Lipoedema Facebook group Australia
- Lipoedema Facebook group WA
- The Lipedema foundation
- The Lipedema Project
- LE&RN – Lymphatic Education and Research Network
Book your next appointment today