Lipedema sufferers go through several lipedema stages as their condition progresses over the years. Lipedema is a chronic and progressive disease. That means that eventually, it worsens over time. The length of time for each stage to progress depends on the individual.
Nevertheless, eventually, without treatment, every sufferer will end up at stage four.
One of the biggest problems lipedema presents is getting an early diagnosis. Doctors still struggle to understand this condition. At its early stages, doctors often mistake it for obesity or lymphedema. For this reason, most patients only receive a diagnosis at a later stage. By that time, their disease has begun to cause them physical and emotional problems. It is also more challenging to treat by the time the sufferer reaches stages three and four.
Although treating lipedema at stages three and four is more complex, it certainly isn’t impossible. Surgery is still an option even at these later stages.
Reaching Stages Three And Four
The signs of lipedema at stages one and two are usually subtle. Stage One symptoms include swelling that is often mistaken for inflammation or weight gain. At stage Two, the lipidemic fat looks like cellulite. Again, this makes it harder to spot and diagnose. A specialist, however, can identify fatty lipomas that usually appear on the buttocks, hips, and legs. Without treatment at this point, lipedema progresses to stage three. It is only then that patients begin to experience more debilitating symptoms.
Progressing To Stage Three
At stage three of lipedema, you’ll experience more effects on the connective tissues of your body. They begin to become firmer and harder. The swelling will remain at all times and won’t alleviate with elevation. You’ll also spot changes in your thighs and knees. More excess skin and bigger fatty lumps appear in these areas. You’ll probably also feel a lot more pain in your lower body. Your joints are under increased stress because of new folds of skin and fibrotic skin. Mobility therefore decreases.
Lipo-Lymphedema At Stage Four
The main characteristic of the final stage of lipedema is lipo-lymphedema. That means lipedema and lymphedema are both present in the body. Stage four sees masses and lumps of excess fat and skin becoming more noticeable and consistent. The lymphatic vessels weaken, and lymphatic fluid can leak from those vessels. You may find your legs become stiffer. As a result, movements become more painful. Fibrosclerosis and elephantiasis may also occur at the fourth stage.
At stage four, your skin will become harder from the swelling and inflammation. You may find that the symptoms reduce the quality of your life. It’s harder to walk and move around due to the extra weight and fatty masses. Staying active is virtually impossible. The skin also becomes less elastic, so painful skin problems like rashes and irritation occur in the skin folds.
How Effective Are Conservative Treatments At Stages Three Or Four?
Lymphatic drainage massage sometimes brings relief for patients at stages one or two of lipedema. By the time you reach stage three, though, it rarely helps. The swelling at this point is consistent and doesn’t respond to massage. Compression garments may help a little, but again, only to a minor extent. Dietary and lifestyle changes are also unhelpful at this stage of the disease. Exercising is virtually impossible due to mobility issues, so obesity is a common side effect.
Nevertheless, there’s no cause of despair. It’s still possible to treat lipedema at stage three or four. The answer lies in liposuction surgery.
Liposuction To Treat Late Stage Lipedema
Liposuction is the best treatment for lipedema at any stage of its progression. It treats the cause of the disease rather than the symptoms. Therefore, liposuction is incredibly effective and provides a long-lasting solution. Although liposuction isn’t a cure for lipedema, it brings long-lasting relief from pain and mobility problems. It also improves self-esteem and restores the quality of life for the patient.
Getting rid of the excess lipidemic fat takes the strain away from the joints and limbs. It also creates a more proportionate shape for the limbs. That boosts the sufferer’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
It’s possible that if you are at stage four of the disease, you may need more surgery as well as liposuction. By the time you’re at this point, your skin may be less elastic. It may, therefore, remain stretched after liposuction surgery. You may need additional cosmetic surgery to remove the excess skin afterward.
Seeking A Specialist’s Opinion
Dr. Su at ArtLipo is a specialist in liposuction to treat lipedema patients. His patients enjoy a far better quality of life, improved self-esteem, greater mobility, and reduced pain. Whichever of the lipedema stages you are at, he can help you get the treatment you need. Get in touch with ArtLipo today to learn more.
Dr. Thomas Su, is the owner and cosmetic surgeon of Artistic Lipo. He has led our full-time clinic specializing in awake-only liposuction since 2007. Dr. Su began his medical career in internal medicine, practicing that until 2005, when he began to provide a full spectrum of non-invasive cosmetic procedures.