Clinical picture of lipoedema

Lipoedem Duisburg - Dr. Stefan Welss lipoedem-h

Clinical picture of lipoedema

For many women the condition begins during puberty, specifically at the threshold from girl to adult woman. At a time in life when the reaction to an outfit can shake a still unstable youthfull self-image, the legs suddenly begin to grow uncontrollably without anything having changed in one’s lifestyle. Affected women then subsequently often suffer from attacks of mobbing and bodyshaming, which very often lead to depression and other psychological disorders. They feel guilty, even though they are in no way responsible for their condition. It’s not only the legs that hurt, but also the looks. This predicament often leads to the adoption of strict diets and excessive sports activities. They lose weight, but the legs remain oversize and don’t fit in with the rest of the body. The lipoedema continues to grow in an uncontrolled way, because it is a progressive condition.

Not so long ago, the condition was completely unknown and those affected were socially stigmatised and excluded, especially in advanced stages. At that time even family doctors did not take the reports of those affected seriously. They were told to go on a diet and exercise more. Misunderstanding was a constant companion on the path of suffering that had already lasted for years. Thus, the affected people were left to their own devices and were left alone with their suffering.

The moment of diagnosis, after a valley of tears, feels like a kind of release. There it is in black and white: it is a medical condition. And it is not their fault. The burden that disappears upon the announcement of the diagnosis changes their life. Just as life-changing as the conservative therapy that follows. Because wearing flat-knitted compression tights and doing lymphatic drainage provides relief, protects the lymphatic system and gives a better quality of life. Finally, the lipoedema is under control.

That is precisely why education is a mainstay of our work. The earlier people learn about their condition, the more they will be spared unnecessary suffering.

Lipoedema in general

The term lipoedema is made up of two words: „lip“ (fat in Greek) and „oedema“ (accumulation of fluid in the tissues). This disorder affects almost exclusively women.

Lipoedema is said to affect up to 11% of women. It happens when fat is distributed in an irregular manner beneath the skin, usually in the bottocks and legs – most often during puberty, pregnancy or menopause – and can progress over time.

The lipoedema is most often characterised by a symmetric build-up of adipose tissue on the legs (or arms or abdomen) while the upper body remains thin. The visual disproportion between the upper body and the larger lower body as well as the heavier arms (in some cases) is due to the fact that the torso, hands and feet are not affected by this disorder. The patients concerned have to struggle with severe pain, swelling, bruising and sometimes also with water retention in the tissue. In addition, their appearance, which often leads to stigmatisation, is often extremely burdensome, both physically, and psychologically. Self-esteem is diminished and quality of life is greatly reduced.

Unfortunately, lipoedema is often misdiagnosed as obesity or lymphedema, which often leads to incorrect treatment. Lipoedema has nothing to do with being overweight or obesity. In the long term, it cannot be influenced by exercising or dieting. Many years can pass before the disorder is correctly diagnosed. Regrettably, patients often only seek help after they have failed in their diets and exercising activities. Given the extent of the suffering, this is fateful, as it is extremely important to treat the disorder as soon as possible in order to stop or at least delay its progression.

Does lipoedema exist in the abdomen ?

Many patients with lipoedema of the legs and arms notice an increase in fatty tissue in the chin, abdomen, pubic area, back and neck regions during lipoedema treatment. Often these fat distribution disorders also take place without weight gain. Many patients continue to complain of lipoedema-typical complaints on the abdomen such as pressure and pain during movement as well as nodular fatty tissue changes in the subcutaneous fatty tissue. This phenomenon is called redistribution of the lipoedema tissue. Approximately 5% of all patients are affected by this redistribution. I have been working intensively on lipoedema of the abdomen for several years and have developed a surgical treatment concept to successfully treat the above-mentioned zones in one surgical procedure.

What are the signs of lipoedema?

The signs of lipoedema often vary from patient to patient. In addition to the clearly visible effects, other individual disorders of varying intensity can occur. How can you tell if you have lipoedema?

The most frequent signs are

  • thin upper body with large arms, legs and/or abdomen
  • sensitivity to pressure and pain
  • tendency to bruise
  • heavy, swollen arms and legs
  • skin is extremely sensitive to touch
  • bad posture and joint degeneration
  • the „saddlebags“ phenomenon: fatty tissue extends mainly in the upper thighs and buttocks
  • „Pole legs“: the fatty tissue spreads evenly along the length of both legs
  • the „sweatpants“ phenomenon: fatty tissue extends evenly from the hips to the ankles and overlaps the ankles
  • discomfort and chafing while walking

Your path back to lightness

The conservative treatment

There ist not yet a cure for lipoedema, and its causes remains unknown. The aim of a holistic treatment is therefore to alleviate the symptoms, to prevent a progressive increase in fat deposits and to prevent complications. As lipoedema is a chronic condition that will accompany you for the rest of your life, your acceptance of it and your attitude towards it, as well as your relationship with yourself and with the visible symptoms, are all very important.

Wearing flat-knit compression tights is a very good way to reduce the symptoms of lipoedema. In addition to this form of therapy, healthy and balanced nutrition, suitable exercice activities such as swimming, as well as manual lymphatic drainage treatment in the advanced stages, are also recommended.

Waterjet assisted liposuction (WAL method) has proven itself to be an effective treatment. As the fat deposits are gently an permanently removed, liposuction provides long-term and sustained symptom relief.
We have summarised here everything you need to know about liposuction.

Do you have any questions about lipoedema and lipoedema treatment?
Please do not hesitate to make an appointment with our practice.