Lipoedema – A Guide
Lipoedema is a distressing medical condition in which excess fat is deposited in the legs. Most cases occur in women. Few people have heard of lipoedema and awareness even within the medical profession is low. Getting a diagnosis can be difficult and although liposuction can help, it is not available within the NHS for lipoedema.
In this guide we look how you can improve your symptoms by learning how to massage your limbs, doing the right kind of exercise, and by wearing compression hosiery to support your legs.
For Lipoedema Daylong’s recommends:
What is Lipoedema?
Lipoedema is the build-up of excess fat cells in the limbs, usually the lower legs. The fatty tissue is not due to obesity, although having ‘fat legs’ is often put down to gaining weight. Unfortunately, no amount of dieting can improve lipoedema and the condition can be diagnosed in people who have no excess fat elsewhere in the body.
The symptoms usually appear at the time of puberty due to the hormonal changes that occur in the body. The excess fatty tissue prevents proper drainage of tissue fluid and as people with the condition get older they often develop lymphoedema too.
This causes increasing discomfort and it can become difficult to walk and move around. The ‘tree trunk’ appearance of the affected limbs often leads to unkind comments from others and this can have a severe impact on confidence and self-esteem.
How to prevent Lipoedema
It is not possible to avoid developing lipoedema as this is a genetic condition but there is a lot that you can do to lessen your symptoms. It is important to see your doctor to try to get a definite diagnosis as this will help you access treatments such as massage and compression hosiery on prescription where available.
Wearing correctly fitted compression hosiery is the main treatment for lipoedema. Not only does compression therapy reduce pain, it prevents symptoms getting worse over time. Wearing correctly fitted compression garments can also improve the shape of the legs, providing an important boost to your confidence.
Self-help is also important. You can learn how to massage your legs and use dry brushing to stimulate the circulation. Adopting a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water and exercising can all help. Swimming is very beneficial as the water supports your legs while you used the muscles.
What causes Lipoedema?
Very little research has been performed into lipoedema but it is thought to be a genetic condition. The genes involved have not been identified but the evidence shows that it runs in families. The increase in fatty tissue also seems to be linked to hormones as it worsens during times of hormonal change, such as at puberty, during pregnancy and at the menopause.
Obesity can make the symptoms of lipoedema worse, but excess body weight does not actually cause the condition. Dieting rarely makes any difference to the affected limbs, but maintaining a healthy weight helps to minimize pressure on the legs.
Top tips to prevent Lipoedema
The symptoms of lipoedema can be reduced by:
- Regular exercise, particularly swimming, to improve muscle tone and circulation in the legs.
- Regular massage. You can do some types of massage yourself to improve circulation and blood flow and to reduce aching and discomfort. You may be able to access specialist massage via the NHS with a private therapist. Massaging the affected limbs with a dry brush can also help.
- The main treatment for lipoedema is wearing correctly fitted and suitable compression hosiery. Compression garments support the affected limbs, reducing fluid buildup and helping to improve the shape of the legs. You will need to wear compression hosiery most of the time but this will significantly improve your quality of life. It may be possible to get compression garments on prescription for lipoedema.