Lipedema refers to a long-term or chronic condition where there is an abnormal accumulation of fat cells in the buttocks, thighs, and legs, and at times, in the arms. While the condition typically only affects women, it can also affect men in rare instances.
Lipedema usually causes painful fat pockets that are unresponsive to exercise and changes in diet. The condition differs between women. The affected site can be tender and prone to bruise easily. Lipedema can lead to fluid retention in the affected areas over time, causing a medical condition known as lymphedema.
It has not been confirmed, but lipedema is thought to have a genetic basis, as in certain cases there is a family history of the condition.
At times, lipedema is mistaken for weight gain, obesity, cellulite or excessive lymphedema or is assumed to develop due to lack of exercise. Lipedema can significantly impact the quality of life for a patient.
Plastic surgeon Dr. Paul McCluskey provides safe and proven treatments for lipedema to patients in Atlanta, Buckhead, Georgia, and surrounding locations.
Staging of Lipedema
Lipedema develops in stages, and the degree of tenderness, pain, inflammation, and fat accumulation may increase over time. Various areas of the body can be affected in different ways at every stage, depending on the individual.
The skin is smooth with an increase of enlarged subcutaneous fat tissue.
The skin appears uneven with indentations in the fat tissue and substantial mounds of fat tissue (lipomas) able to be felt and seen.
In this stage, the patient has large extrusion of fat tissue leading to deformations, particularly around the knees and on the thighs.
This stage is characterized by the development of lipolymphedema. This is a condition in which both lipedema and lymphedema are present in the body along with substantial tissue overhangs on the legs and/or arms.
Differences between Lipedema and Lymphedema
Lipedema refers to a chronic and progressive condition. Over time, it can develop into lymphedema. This occurs as the accumulation of fat impacts the ability of the lymphatic system to drain fluids, inflammatory molecules, and cell waste products from the tissues.
In comparison to people with lipedema, individuals with lymphedema will find that:
- their feet or hands are impacted
- the level of inflammation is not the same if both legs or both arms are impacted-one limb is more inflamed than the other
- the inflammation develops due to the build-up of fluid in the lymphatic system
- in case the lymphedema is of short duration, the inflamed skin will indent or pit, when pressed with fingers-pressure creates a temporary mark on the skin
- there is a higher risk of infection development
Other Reasons for Inflammation
Apart from lipedema and lymphedema, there are other causes of tissue inflammation. Therefore, a differential diagnosis is crucial.
The other causes of tissue inflammation are as follows:
- Obesity: In this case, the fat tends to be unevenly spread over the entire body.
- Phleboedema and Chronic Venous Insufficiency: In this condition, there is the presence of fluid and absence of fat.
Cosmetic surgeon Dr. Paul McCluskey receives patients from Atlanta, Buckhead, Georgia, and nearby areas for lipedema treatment.
Serving patients in and around Atlanta, Buckhead, Roswell, Marietta, Georgia and surrounding areas.