Lipedema: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Lipedema is the abnormal accumulation of fat beneath the skin. Fat accumulation or deposition is seen mainly in certain parts of the body like thighs, buttocks and legs. This condition is seen only in women. It is not seen in men.
There are several reasons for the development of this condition, but it is often thought that there is a link between this abnormal fat deposition and hormonal changes.
In most of the women, this condition develops around puberty and can worsen later on. It doesn’t affect the upper part of the body like trunk or abdomen. In this condition, the affected women have the small upper part of the body and larger bottom part of the body. The fat accumulation is seen in buttocks, thighs, and legs, but not in the feet.
Some people have mistaken Lipedema to be increased weight or lymphedema, but both of them are different. Weight gain can cause increased fat distribution throughout your body, but Lipedema causes fat accumulation only in the bottom half of your body.
The lymphatic system contains a system of vessels called lymphatic vessels which carry a fluid called lymph. This lymphatic system helps protects us from various kinds of infections or bugs. If there is any sort of obstruction in the lymphatic canals, there is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in some parts of the body, and it is called lymphedema.
Generally, lymphedema starts from feet. In some people with Lipedema, increased number of fat cells can obstruct the flow of lymph and can lead to the development of lymphedema too. Due to this, Lipedema can lead to increased susceptibility to infections, hardening or thickening of the skin overlying the lymph deposited region, etc.
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There are several causes for the development of Lipedema. Some of them are:
Lipedema is thought to be due to hormonal factors or hormonal changes. This is because most of the women who have this condition develop it during some form of hormonal change in their body.
Generally, hormonal changes can occur during the start of menstruation or puberty, pregnancy, after surgery related to female reproductive organs or during the cessation of menstruation or menopause. So, Lipedema can also develop during such times.
Heredity or genetic factors are also thought to play a role in developing Lipedema. So, women who have mothers or sisters who have this condition are more prone to develop Lipedema.
Stress is one of the major reasons for the development of many different diseases. When you are stressed or anxious, there are several physiological changes in your body. There is the elevation of stress hormones like cortisol, which lead to swelling or inflammation in your body. This can also be a contributing factor in the development of Lipedema.
The symptoms of Lipedema are:
Abnormal fat distribution:
The main symptom of Lipedema is the abnormal distribution of fat only in particular areas of the body like buttocks, thighs, legs and calf. In some people arms are affected. But, in most people, the upper part of the body and feet are spared and there is no abnormal fat distribution in them.
Initially, Lipedema can be painless. But, as the condition progresses, it can lead to severe pain as well. So, it is also known with the synonym of the painful fat syndrome.
Increased susceptibility to infections:
If the fat cells block lymph flow and lead to lymphedema, it can make the affected person more susceptible to infections or bugs.
There are several treatment options for Lipedema. Let us see them below:
Drainage of the lymph:
Massage is done manually of the affected part of the body. This helps in enhancing the flow of the lymph, thereby reducing the blockage or accumulation of lymph. This helps in the entry of the accumulated lymph into the veins. So, symptoms like the pain will be reduced.
We can use elastic compression bandages around the affected area. This helps in reducing the fluid accumulation in these areas. It also prevents the fluid build up in these areas in the future.
We should not be sedentary when we have this condition of Lipedema. We need to keep moving. This helps in reducing fluid build-up in one place. We can do any sort of exercise to maintain mobility, which can be as simple as walking.
Liposuction is a medical procedure in which the abnormal fat which is deposited under the skin is removed using a suction tube. You may need to consult your doctor several times to complete this procedure.