What is Lipedema?
This is an infrequently recognized and often neglected disorder that almost always affects women. It poses a diagnostic challenge as one of the common disorders that is easily confused with lymphedema. Lipedema is the disproportional accumulation of fat most commonly in the legs. The feet are usually spared. The disease manifests typically after puberty, affecting women almost exclusively. Men can develop it but usually as a result of a hormone disturbance.
The incidence of lipedema among women is 11%. 10-18% of all patients referred to a lymphedema clinic have lipedema. It has been suggested that among all women with increased fat in the lower extremities, 60% are caused by obesity, 20% by lipedema, and 20% by a combination of both.
Lipedema is thought to be an endocrine and or genetic problem. Frequent easy bruising and spontaneous or palpation induce pain are hallmarks of this condition. Lipedema also occurs quite frequently in association with lymphatic and or venous insufficiency.
Signs and Symptoms
Early diagnosis of Lipedema is vital to stop symptoms from getting any worse.
A number of factors are taken into consideration when making a formal diagnosis of Lipedema:
Disproportionately larger/fatter legs and hips compared to the upper body
Swelling is symmetrical (both sides of the body are affected equally)
Hands and feet are not affected
Loose, floppy connective tissues around the knee joints
Fat that looks like cellulite and feels soft
Tenderness/pain and easy or spontaneous bruising to affected areas
Skin of affected areas may be pale and cold
Upper arms may also be disproportionately bigger
Patients may report increased swelling in hot weather