Lipoedema or fat edema, is a condition associated with the abnormal accumulation of fat cells. The accumulation of fat is significantly more pronounced in the extremities than in other areas of the body. It most commonly affects the lower limbs, but is less commonly seen on the upper arms. Lipoedema is typically a disease of women and is very rare in men. The condition is caused by an abnormal proliferation of fat cells, i.e. a disease! It should not be confused with “normal” obesity.
Development and symptoms of lipoedema
Lipoedema occurs after puberty, pregnancy or menopause, when estrogen levels change more significantly. It causes symmetrical lesions and abnormal fat accumulation in the limbs.
Fat wraps around the limbs like riding pants, from the hips to the ankles. The feet, on the other hand, remain slender (in obesity, fat pads can be seen here too).
A fat bulge above the hips is typical, the kneecap is completely surrounded by fat and a transverse fold of skin develops below the knee. The fat pad on the calf overhangs the ankles, covering them.
On rare occasions, the fat pad may also appear on the upper arm, being most pronounced on the inside of the elbow.
In more severe cases, fat deposits impair blood and lymphatic circulation and lymphedema is “added”, making the condition significantly worse. Poor circulation makes blood vessels more fragile. In areas of lipoedema, even minor bumps can lead to haemorrhage. Lipoedema is often seen as blue-green patches on the limbs. The above tissue lesions cause the skin of the limbs to become sensitive and painful even with slight pressure.
It is a pathological condition and not “just” obesity!
Few doctors are aware of the existence of lipoedema. For a long time, the person is treated as obese. Beyond dietary suggestions, they are not given much attention.
It usually takes years before a diagnosis of lipoedema is finally made.
It would be extremely important for the patient to recognise that abnormal functioning adipose tissue is causing the fat accumulation.
If you are affected, it is important to know that this is a disease that causes more intense fat deposition even with a normal diet!
Your most important thing to do is to pay more attention to eating a balanced diet. Strictly eat only the calories and nutrients you need. Excess calories are stored more quickly and are harder to get rid of, so don’t eat more than you need.
In most cases, self-indulgence doesn’t help. Fat oedema usually does not respond to even the most drastic diets.
You can still live a full and active life despite lipoedema. However, it can be a burden on the aesthetic appearance. It can lead to a lack of self-confidence, depression, isolation and even compulsive eating. Get help from a psychologist if you can’t manage on your own! To treat lipoedema, you should consult a lymphedema specialist. Here, specialist nurses can give you lifestyle advice and teach you how to treat yourself at home.
There is currently no cure for lipoedema. But you can stop its progress and reduce symptoms. However, it requires a lifetime of attention and daily treatment. If you are affected, this is YOUR responsibility! No one will do it for you, you can only get advice! In other words, organise your life so that lipoedema management is an integral part of it.
Compression garments, manual and mechanical lymphatic massage and regular exercise are the basic pillars of treatment.
Wearing them is effective in preventing symptoms from worsening and helps prevent them. It promotes the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid to prevent fluid retention and the development of oedema. The elastic dress moves fluid in the tissues upwards. Wearing a compression garment stops or slows the progression of lipoedema and its transformation into lipo-lymphoedema.
The type and degree of compression of the garment that is best for you will be selected and prescribed by a specialist!
Compression may be sufficient in the early stages of lipoedema, but it should be worn all day long.
Manual lymphatic massage is a special type of gentle massage that stimulates lymph flow and thereby reduces oedema. It also relieves uncomfortable tension and possible pain. It is most effective when combined with other treatments – wearing a compression garment and mechanical lymphatic massage. Manual lymphatic massage requires special training, so choose a practitioner who is experienced in the technique.
Machine lymphatic drainage
Mechanical lymphatic drainage is performed in the same way for lipoedema as for lymphedema. The compression treatment requires a suitable “boot” consisting of several air chambers, which is put on your feet. The device inflates the air compartments of the boots one after the other. This ‘squeezes’ the oedema out of the treated area. Mechanical treatment is effective, but it is not enough on its own. Use a compression garment and include regular manual drainage. They reinforce each other’s effects.
Lipoedema can be sensitive to pressure. Buy a modern lymphatic massage machine that can precisely control cuff pressure. With modern, multi-chambered systems, you can adjust the pressure so that it doesn’t cause any complaints, but reduces symptoms.
Lymphatic massage aka Compression Therapy
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- 4 compression chamber cuffs
- Use it equally in oedema affecting the arms or legs.
- Optimal for arm swelling, developing after breast removal surgery (mastectomy)
- Eliminate the feeling of heaviness of legs, and tension pains caused by varicosity.
- Relieve swelling of your feet associated with varicosity in pregnancy.
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- Home treatment of mild to moderate lymphoedema without complications
- For cardiac swelling after mastectomy, this device is usually sufficient
- It is effective in relieving the heavy legs and tightness caused by varicose veins
- You can also use it to reduce leg swelling in pregnancy varicose veins
A regular, dynamic exercise is an important part of therapy. Always wear compression stockings when exercising! As your muscles alternately tighten and contract, the garment also expands and contracts elastically to “pump” the oedema.
Do lymphatic gymnastics for 45-60 minutes at least three times a week (you can learn from a professional and do it yourself at home).
In addition, you can do movements where you don’t put too much strain on the limb. Intense, energetic running is not for you! Swimming, water aerobics, walking and easy-paced cycling are for you.