If you’ve been trying to lose weight and you just can’t no matter how much you tried, then maybe you have to ask yourself: “do I have lipedema?”

What is lipedema?

Lipedema is a chronic condition that usually affects females. Also called as the painful fat syndrome, lipedema is characterized by the development of bilateral and symmetrical fat tissue excess. This excessive fat tissue usually appears on the lower extremities including the hips and upper and lower legs. In some cases, small pockets of fat can be found above the ankles.

The exact cause of lipedema is unknown although experts believe that it may run in families. There may also be metabolic, hormonal, and inflammatory factors that can trigger the development of lipedema.

Do I have lipedema?

The lipedema symptoms may vary from one person to another. If you’re suspecting that you have lipedema, then you need to check yourself for the presence of any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Accumulation of lipedemic fat from the waist to knees or ankles

  • Joint pain which may result from fat lobes or pads that put stress on joints

  • Pain in soft tissues when at rest

  • Gait problems

  • Loss of skin elasticity

  • Non-pitting edema

  • Easy bruising

Stages of Lipedema

Lipedema comes in different stages. Mild cases can progress when left unmanaged.

Stage I

Stage I lipedema is considered as the early stage of the disease. At this point, skin is smooth and swelling can easily be resolved through rest and elevation.

Stage II

During the next stage of the disease, skin may start to have indentations and there could be development of lipomas and eczema. Unlike Stage I, the swelling in Stage II lipedema may not be easily resolved through rest and elevation.

Stage III

There are hardened connective tissues in Stage III lipedema. Swelling is consistently present and is less responsive to treatment modalities.

Stage IV

During Stage IV of the disease, there is larger mass of skin that overhang and patients may develop fibrosclerosis. Like Stage III, Stage IV lipedema is less responsive to different treatment modalities.

Diagnosing Lipedema

You need to see a specialist in order to confirm if you really have lipedema. The process for diagnosing lipedema involves history taking and physical examination. It may also involve soft tissue imaging such as the use of MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound. The doctor may also request for lymph vessel imaging like lymphoscintigraphy and DEXA, a form of imaging for fat content.

If the question “do I have lipedema?” constantly bugs you, then it’s best to see a specialist to have you assessed. This condition is more manageable in its early stages. So, don’t wait for it to progress before you see a specialist.

Image: Robert Couse-Baker

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