Lipedema is a chronic condition that causes a buildup of adipose tissue (body fat) in the arms and legs. This condition is fairly common but can be uncomfortable to live with as it may cause pain, swelling, and bruising. Feelings of bumps under the skin, fatigue, and muscle pain are also symptoms. Pain can range from almost none to quite severe. Lipedema can exacerbate vein disease which can cause other health problems. Though there is not a full understanding of the cause of lipedema, there are ways to manage this condition.
Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Ronnie G. Smalling specializes in treatments of conditions like lipedema and will be able to help you return to a comfortable life.
Lipedema is most common in females and very rarely develops in men.
Many patients with lipedema also suffer from underactive thyroids, depression, and frequent migraines.
The cause of lipedema is not fully understood. We do know that it often occurs:
Lipedema is sometimes nicknamed the "painful fat disease". Patients are usually overweight and the areas of fat deposits will feel painful. Symptoms can be different depending on the person, but there are some common symptoms to look for:
It’s also common to see a mark around the ankles from where the swelling stopped and the ankles were spared. Swelling won’t go down even when the legs are elevated for a long period of time.
This condition usually targets both sides of the body; both legs and thighs will experience pain and swelling.
Unfortunately, this condition is commonly misdiagnosed. If you have any of the above symptoms, you should talk to a doctor as soon as possible.
No. Patients with lipedema are often overweight, so it can be easily dismissed or diagnosed as obesity. Dieting and exercising won’t always make the fat from lipedema go away. Lipedema causes fat throughout different parts of the body; these fat deposits are not the patient’s fault. In obesity, fat occurs throughout the body. In lipedema, fat occurs only in the limbs, but not the hands and feet.
No. Lipedema is often confused with lymphedema, but they are two separate conditions. The swelling in lymphedema affects arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, and toes. Lipedema causes swelling and fat in the thighs, legs, and buttocks, but spares the feet and hands.
There is no known cure for lipedema, but there are ways to manage symptoms and keep pain under control. There are several ways to help prevent lipedema from progressing.
Dieting and exercising can promote a healthy heart and may slow the progression of fat deposits.
Compression garments can be worn which may provide some relief from pain.
Physical and occupational therapy can teach patients different techniques to deal with this condition. Stretching and massage can also help maintain the symptoms.
If preventative options aren’t slowing the progression, it may be time to look it into some other treatment options.
Liposuction has been shown to help reduce the severity of symptoms. Liposuction is a surgical procedure which uses a suction technique to remove fat from certain areas of the body. A local anesthetic is used but general anesthesia is not necessary and the procedure can usually be done in a doctor’s office.
Studies have shown that liposuction results in decreased pain, swelling, and bruising. Patients also reported a reduction in the frequency and severity of migraines.
This treatment option may be worth pursuing if your symptoms are progressing or are becoming difficult to manage.
At Smalling Vascular Institute, we’d be happy to discuss liposuction treatment and other options to help you get your quality of life back.