During June, we marked the annual occurrence of Lipedema Awareness Week. Yet, despite this yearly event, there remains a lack of knowledge and understanding of this condition. Although around 11% of women worldwide suffer from lipedema, many people have never heard of it. The general public tends to remain ignorant of lipedema as a condition. But surprisingly and worryingly, many physicians also remain unaware of the disease. Many are unable to spot the signs of the disease. Many more confuse the disease with other similar conditions.
With this in mind, it isn’t hard to see why sufferers often struggle to get an accurate diagnosis. Studies show that it usually takes between 15 and 18 years before patients receive a lipedema diagnosis. The very first event to raise awareness of lipedema took place over a decade ago. So, are more family doctors now able to recognize its symptoms?
The History of Lipedema
In 1940, doctors identified the first case of lipedema in the USA. Most people attribute the disease’s original identification to L. E. Wold and E. A . Hines. Even though doctors have been aware of the condition for over 80 years, it’s still poorly understood. Both physicians and sufferers alike remain unaware of its existence. Often, even doctors confuse lipedema with lymphedema – a totally different condition. Many more confuse it with obesity. Virtually all sufferers are female, and experts think lipedema affects around 11% of women globally. The numbers could even be as high as 39%.
Also read – Five Key Lipedema Symptoms to Be Aware of
Why Don’t Doctors Recognize Lipedema?
The main reason why physicians fail to recognize lipedema is simply a lack of training. US medical schools spend only about 30 minutes teaching the entire lymphatic system. With this in mind, it isn’t too surprising that so many doctors are unaware that lipedema exists. Furthermore, many symptoms of lipedema mimic those of other conditions, such as obesity and lymphedema. That is especially the case during the early stages of the disease. Therefore, patients often don’t receive a diagnosis until their condition is advanced.
What Signs Should I Look For?
Some of the symptoms of lipedema that you should look for include:
- Column-like legs with symmetrical swelling
- A larger lower body than an upper body: The lower body may be several sizes larger than the upper body.
- Pain and tenderness to the touch
- Easy bruising
- An unusual texture to the skin: It may feel as if there are grains of rice, peas, or walnuts beneath the skin.
- Cuffs of fat at the ankles (and possibly wrists), but the hands and feet remain unswollen
What Do I Do If I Think I Have Lipedema?
If you believe you have symptoms of lipedema, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek out specialist help. It’s unlikely your family doctor can help you, especially if you’re at an early stage of the disease. Getting an early diagnosis is crucial if you want to achieve the best treatment outcomes. Since lipedema awareness is so poor amongst family doctors, get in touch with Dr. Su at ArtLipo. He is an expert in the field and can arrange a consultation to give you an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
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.