Unfortunately, experts still know surprisingly little about possible lipedema causes. Although the first identification of lipedema as a disease came about in the 1940s, it’s still a poorly understood condition. Until recently, experts conducted few studies and did little research into lipedema. Today, there is more information available. Yet many medical professionals remain unaware of lipedema’s existence.
Why Do Doctors Know So Little About Lipedema?
Doctors know very little about lipedema because they have a poor understanding of the lymphatic system in the first place. Doctors spend very little time training in this aspect of medicine in the USA. In fact, they spend as little as 30 minutes covering this topic during their studies. There is also a possible gender bias. Lipedema primarily affects women, and female medical issues traditionally receive less attention in research than those that affect men. Furthermore, the symptoms of lipedema are easy to mistake for those of other conditions like lymphedema and obesity. With all of these factors in mind, it isn’t hard to see why doctors know so little about this condition.
What Are the Possible Causes of Lipedema?
At the present time, the definitive cause of lipedema remains unknown. There are, however, some theories about potential causes. Some studies show that the two most likely causes are genetics and hormones. More research is needed to confirm these theories.
Also Read – What Triggers Lipedema?
How Can Hormones Cause Lipedema?
There is a theory that the female hormone estrogen plays a part in causing lipedema. Evidence shows that the condition arises or worsens during times of hormonal change. That includes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, as well as after gynecological surgery or after taking hormonal birth control. At these times in a woman’s life, her estrogen levels change dramatically. Therefore, it makes sense that estrogen plays a role in the development of the disease. It also explains why lipedema mostly affects women.
How Could Genetics Cause Lipedema?
It appears that genetics may have a role in causing lipedema. Studies show that people with close family members with lipedema are likely to have it too. Researchers have found some evidence of family genetic variations in genes involved in fat development, hormonal regulation, and inflammation. According to research, lipedema has an X-linked dominant or autosomal dominant inheritance.
How Can Men Develop Lipedema?
Experts believe that around 11% of women suffer from lipedema. However, far fewer men have the condition. There are only tiny numbers of cisgender males with lipedema. Some trans men develop the condition, potentially because of genetics and hormones. But cisgender men developing the condition tend to have hormonal imbalances that could be the cause. Sometimes, they have other underlying conditions like liver cirrhosis that may have significance.
Which Myths About Lipedema Have Experts Busted?
Although lipedema remains largely unstudied, there is some research ongoing into the disease. Over the past few years, experts have busted a number of myths about the condition. Perhaps most importantly, experts now know that obesity doesn’t cause lipedema. They now understand that lipedema fat is very different from regular fat. It doesn’t respond in the same way to diet and exercise. It also has a different make-up and texture.
Nevertheless, researchers acknowledge that there is a connection between obesity and lipedema. Many people with lipedema also suffer from obesity. That is often more to do with limited mobility that prevents them from exercising regularly and their poor mental well-being.
Experts also now know that lipedema and lymphedema aren’t the same condition. Again, there is a connection between the two, but they are two distinct conditions. Some people with lipedema develop lymphedema too. It occurs because the lipedema fat cells eventually build up so much that they block the lymph flow. Nevertheless, they now understand that lymphedema isn’t the same thing as lipedema and doesn’t cause it.
While experts understand these things today, though, the news hasn’t filtered down to family doctors. Many of them still lack of awareness and don’t know what symptoms look out for. That is why so many people are misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed for many years.
The Importance of Finding a Specialist
As many doctors don’t understand lipedema, seeking a specialist in the field is essential. Seeing a specialist is crucial to get an accurate early diagnosis. Family doctors generally cannot spot the signs of lipedema until the condition is very advanced. That leads to many years of unnecessary suffering for the patient. Meanwhile, a specialist is able to spot the symptoms of lipedema even in its early stages. With an early, accurate diagnosis, patients can get treatment much earlier and see better outcomes. They can avoid the distress, pain, and suffering involved in developing later-stage lipedema.
To find out more about lipedema causes and to arrange a consultation, get in touch with Dr. Su at ArtLipo.
Dr. Hamwi is an aesthetic plastic surgeon specializing in cosmetic surgical and non-invasive procedures. After completing residencies in both plastic surgery and general surgery as well as a fellowship at Harvard University, Dr. Hamwi then went on to pursue an aesthetic surgery fellowship at one of the country’s most competitive programs in Manhattan, New York. Less than one percent of plastic surgeons have completed such specialized training.