Trying to lose weight is an eternal struggle, faced by almost everyone at least once in his or her lives. It may not always be about fitting into your clothes, but sometimes it is also about preventing oncoming obesity and its associated diseases. But sometimes, even when you eat right, work out and quit drinking, shedding the extra pounds can get difficult, and the reason for that is various disorders. One such disorder is called lipedema.
What is lipedema?
Also called lipoedema, it is one of the rarest genetic disorders, through which the adipose tissue, which is the fat storing tissue underneath the skin, is affected. As a result of this, fat particles are accumulated unevenly across the body, leading to a disproportionate appearance of the body. Lipedema almost exclusively occurs in women, and most commonly, the fat is distributed along the legs as well as the hips.
Is diagnosing lipedema difficult?
Yes, diagnosing a genetic disease like lipedema can be very difficult, particularly because it barely affects 11% of the total female population of the world. The disease itself was first discovered during the late 1940s, but since then, no such progress has been made. As a result of this, very few doctors and physicians have full knowledge of it, and thus, it is, more often than not, confused with general obesity during the onset of puberty, and another disease called lymphedema.
How is lipedema different from lymphedema?
Often, doctors misdiagnose a case of lipedema for lymphedema. But as the name suggests, lymphedema is caused by abnormalities of the lymph nodules. Some of the most common differences between the two diseases are:
• Lipedema occurs strictly in females. In fact, there have been no noted cases in medical history of lipedema occurring in males. On the other hand, lymphedema occurs men and women equally.
• Lipedema occurs due to a genetic abnormality passed down by mother to daughter. On the other hand, lymphedema can occur due to genetic mutation during an individual’s lifespan, or even after surgeries that have affected the lymphatic system.
• The most visible sigh of lipedema is the abnormal fattening of thighs, arm and hips, but not the feet and the palm. In lymphedema, fat deposition occurs in one leg or hand, including the feet.
• Lymphedema can generally occur at any age, in both men and women. But the onset of lipedema generally happens, in most medically recorded cases, at juncture where the body undergoes hormonal changes. For instance, at puberty, menopause or even pregnancy.
• Unfortunately, while lymphedema is not characterized by any pain, in lipedema, the affected areas like the thighs, experience mild to excessive pain and discomfort, which can sometimes affect a person’s mobility.
What are the most common causes of lipedema?
Due to the rarity of this disease, the causes of lipedema are yet to be discovered, but doctors associate faulty genes with its onset. Since it is a genetic disease, there are chances that if the mother has it, the daughter will most likely have it too. If the gene is passed down to an individual, the imbalance of female hormones like progesterone and estrogen during puberty, menopause, post a gynecological surgery as well as pregnancy can cause the gene to manifest itself.
What are some of the most common symptoms of lipedema?
Some of the most common visible symptoms of lipedema are as follows:
• Disproportionate gaining of weight. Sometimes, while patients gain weight on the lower side of the body, the start to lose weight above the weight.
• Thighs, buttocks and hips are larger when compared to the body, but they are proportionate to each other.
• No abnormal increase in size of the arms or the feet.
• Constant pain in the affected areas, and they may be tender to the touch.
• Occasional bruising which seems to occur without ant any cause.
Are there any progressive stages in the development of lipedema?
Stages of lipedema, too, are based on hypothetically calculated medical guesses and the degree to which the disease has affected the individual. Apparently, there are four known stages of lipedema. They are:
• Stage 1: This is the first stage, where the early symptoms of lipedema start to kick in. The skin around the thighs and hips are smooth and swelling may occur during the night, but goes down during the day. Treatment at this point is extremely successful.
• Stage 2: At this stage, due to uneven fat distribution, the skin starts developing uneven ridges and grooves. Occasional swelling occurs and the patient may suffer from the sensitive skin condition called eczema.
• Stage 3: At this point, the tissue underneath the skin at the thighs and hips becomes hard and the swelling is constant. The muscles start to hang, looking like “saddle bags”.
• Stage 4: At this point, the body does not respond that readily to treatment. The loose pouches of muscles and skin start to increase in size and sometimes, fluid deposition also sets in at the affected regions.
How can lipedema be prevented?
Since lipedema is a genetic disorder, it can never be prevented as the development of the disease will depend entirely upon the manifestation of the genes. However, early diagnosis is the key. If your medical professional or doctor can detect the disease during its early stages and recommends treatment, chances are that the management of the disease is possible and the affected individual can lead a fairly painless life.
What are some of the effective treatments of lipedema?
Forget what some health professionals say, diet and exercise does not lead to a full cure of lipedema. In fact, when people cannot lose weight even after a strict diet plan and regular exercises, doctors start suspecting a case of lipedema.
There are some treatments of lipedema, but the results and outcomes vary from person to person and the degree to which the disease has affected the individual. In some cases, a combination of more than one form of treatment has helped patients lead a fairly painless life. In any case, some of the medically recommended treatments of lipedema are:
• Manual compression: In this treatment method, tight fitting bandages or clothing like spandex, panty hose is used on the hips, buttocks and thighs to increase the external pressure and thereby prevent further accumulation of fluids under the skin. However, this can lead to bruising and increasing discomfort for the patient.
• Lymphatic fluid drainage: This form of treatment is aimed at manually stop the accumulation of lymphatic fluid around affected areas of the body, and instead, stimulate the flow to healthy vessels. This is done through gentle manual massaging and is believed to prevent fibroid formation.
• Certain Diets: Few women have claimed that certain eliminatory diets have helped them to deal with fluid accumulation and consequent pain. This includes regulated sodium intake and dietary herbs. However, this is yet to be scientifically tested and proven.
• Liposuction: This cosmetic treatment is used to surgically remove the fat deposit from the adipose tissue underneath the skin of the hips and the thighs. In this, a tube is deposited in the affected area, and the liquidated fat is removed. However, this requires several sessions and constant monitoring.
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