Lipedema was once thought to be a rare condition. However, today, it affects around 11 percent of the population. Almost all sufferers are female. Although awareness of this medical problem is increasing, there is still a lack of understanding. Even in the medical community, there are many misunderstandings about this problem. A surprising number of doctors still struggle to spot the symptoms and signs of this condition. It’s no wonder, then, that sufferers worry doctors don’t know how to treat lipedema.
What Do Doctors Know About Lipedema?
One problem with lipedema is that doctors aren’t sure why it occurs. It may have genetic or hormonal factors, but more research into the subject is necessary. Doctors do know that lipedema occurs when body fat is irregularly distributed under the skin. Usually, it occurs in the legs and buttocks. In some cases, it may also progress to the arms. While lipedema in its earlier stages is a primarily cosmetic problem, if left untreated, it worsens. Over time, it will start to cause pain, as well as other issues, such as lymphedema. Although there are some key signs of lipedema, many doctors still mistake it for lymphedema (a different problem). Alternatively, they simply think that sufferers are obese. This makes it difficult to obtain a medical diagnosis. This, in turn, makes it very hard to seek effective treatment until the condition has progressed.
What are the Signs A Doctor Should Look For?
The usual symptoms of lipedema are having column-like legs and a bigger lower body. The affected body parts will be sensitive to touch and may bruise easily. Usually, the sufferer has a small upper body and a substantially larger bottom half. As an example, they may wear size 8 tops, but size 16 trousers.
In the early stages, it can be difficult to determine the difference between lipedema and obesity. This means sufferers rarely get help at the point at which they could most benefit. With the progression of the condition, fat builds up and the lower half of the body gets heavier. Eventually, fat may start to build up in the arms, too.
With time, the fat cells will begin to block the lymphatic system vessels. These normally help to maintain the balance of the bodily fluid levels while protecting from infection. When these become blocked, lymph fluid cannot drain properly, and lymphedema occurs. When left untreated, the result is delayed healing of wounds, development of fibrosis, hard skin on the legs, and infections.
You can distinguish lipedema from obesity because it’s only found in the thighs, legs, and, occasionally, arms. It begins in the thighs before progressing to the lower leg. Usually, both legs are equally affected so the result is symmetrical.
Which Treatments Do Doctors Recommend?
Once a patient has obtained a medical diagnosis, she receives a treatment referral. Often, however, these traditional treatments may have limited effectiveness. The most common form of treatment for lipedema is complete decongestive therapy. Doctors use this to ease the painful symptoms associated with the condition.
This therapy involves four separate components:
- Manual lymphatic drainage. This is a kind of massage that uses rhythmic, yet gentle, pumping movements. This stimulates lymph fluid flow around the blocked areas toward the healthy vessels. The fluid can, then, drain into the body’s venous system, relieving pain, and preventing fibrosis.
- Compression. This involves using custom-fit panties, shorts or pantyhose or stretch bandages. Patients wear these to increase the tissue pressure on the legs. This reduces swelling and reduces the chances of fluid starting to build up again.
- Exercise. This helps to limit the buildup of fluids while boosting mobility and improving or maintaining leg function.
- Thorough nail and skin care. This helps to reduce the chance of infection and wounds.
While these are the most common treatments, they aren’t the most effective options. There is a better solution that addresses the cause of lipedema rather than treating the symptoms – liposuction.
Liposuction for Lipedema
Some doctors are now recognizing the benefits of using liposuction to treat lipedema. Tumescent liposuction has proven to be exceptionally effective in reducing the pain and discomfort associated with this condition. This treatment removes the excess fat cells permanently from the affected body parts. The surgeon uses a hollow tube placed underneath the skin to suction away the fat tissue. While there is initially some swelling and bruising, this soon will fade. The result will be a slimmer and more contoured lower body. Not only will the sufferer experience less pain, but she will also have better self-confidence, as well as better mobility.
When you need a doctor who knows how to treat lipedema with liposuction, contact Artistic Lipo and Plastic Surgery. We are experts in the field. Call us to learn more about how we can help improve your quality of life with our lipedema liposuction treatments.