If you have multiple lipomas on your legs and you can’t seem to get rid of them, you may suffer from a condition called lipedema. Lipedema is a chronical disorder of the adipose tissue. It generally affects the legs – and sometimes the arms, causing them to accumulate fatty tissue.
When talking about lipedema, it is important to know that it is defined by five characteristics:
1. It can be genetic, meaning that you can inherit it.
2. It occurs almost exclusively in women; there are rare cases when men get it.
3. It can occur of women of all sizes, regardless of their weight, from the seriously underweight to the morbidly obese.
4. It involves the excess deposit and expansion of fat cells in an unusual and particular pattern – bilateral, symmetrical and usually from the waist to a distinct line just above the ankles.
5. Unlike the typical fat of obesity, lipedemic fat cannot be eliminated through diet and exercise.
Lipedema is generally triggered at puberty. However, it can also occur or worsen by pregnancy, peri-menopause and gynecological surgery (such as surgery of the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes). The cause of this condition remains unknown, even though most people suffering from it also have a significant hormonal imbalance. Additionally, the times of onset or exacerbation coincide with times of hormonal disturbance, such as the aforementioned examples.
Regarding its signs and symptoms, individuals suffering from lipedema tend to gain weight in the areas characteristic to the disease and lose weight in non-lipedemic areas. Obese individuals with lipedema who undergo bariatric surgery lose fat primarily from the waist up. Symptoms of lipedema include disproportionately large, column-like legs. As the condition progresses, people having it become increasingly heavy in the lower body.
Treating lipedema is quite difficult, since there is currently no known uniform procedure to cure it. There is debate, though, about surgery as an intervention. There are surgeons in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom achieving success with medical liposuction. This is a specialized form of liposuction, usually performed with tumescent local anesthesia, one of the nuances being ensuring integrity of the lymphatic system while removing lipedemic adipose tissue.
If lipedema is diagnosed early, which is currently very rare, there are chances of preventing a significant expansion of lipedemic fat cells, and to alert patients to their increased risk for obesity so they can take appropriate action. However, lipedema is a rare condition, being often mistaken for obesity.