Whether it’s lipedema stage 1 or stage 4, this condition still remains as one of the poorly understood diseases in the United States. Also called as painful fat syndrome, lipedema affects both men and women although there are more reported cases of lipedema among women than in men. This condition is often characterized by the presence of bilateral and symmetrical fatty tissues on the upper hip region and on the upper and lower leg areas.
Lipedema is an often misdiagnosed condition. There are many cases of women who have it but are diagnosed with either bilateral lower extremity lymphedema or simply obesity. Hence, many don’t receive the appropriate care they need to manage the condition.
A woman with lipedema often appears as someone who is a size smaller from the waist up and a size bigger from the waist down. They may appear size 8 based on the appearance of their upper extremities and size 18 on their lower extremities.
Stages of Lipedema
There are currently four recognized stages of lipedema. The staging determines the severity of one’s lipedema and is the basis for treatment.
Stage 1 lipedema is considered as mild lipedema. During this stage, the skin of the affected areas is still smooth and soft. Swelling is already noticeable and usually increases during the day. But during this stage of the disease, the swelling can be alleviated with elevation and rest.
Treatment is necessary even at this early stage of the disease. This is because lipedema can eventually compromise the lymphatic system, affect the flow of the lymphatic fluid, and lead to further swelling of the affected areas.
Managing Lipedema Stage 1
Lipedema stage 1 can be managed through conservative treatment. The aim of such treatment is to decrease pain and hypersensitivity, improve mobility of the patient, and to prevent the edema associated with the disease.
Part of the conservative approach to lipedema stage 1 is the complete decongestive therapy. Wearing of compression garment is part of this treatment plan. Compression garments can help reduce the edema and prevent the occurrence of lipo-lymphedema.
Nutritional guidance is also an integral part of managing lipedema stage 1 as weight gain will only worsen the situation of the patient. It will further decrease her mobility and comfort level.
Low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, and walking are recommended for people with lipedema as they promote the lymphatic and venous function. High-impact exercises like running should be avoided as they can only exacerbate the joint pain.
Exercises done in the water can be a good option. Walking in chest-high water can provide graduated and painless compression on the legs.
Liposuction is another treatment option for people with lipedema. Since it comes with certain risks, those who are considering of liposuction should consult first their primary healthcare providers.
There are certain types of liposuction that worked well for those with lipedema. These include the Water Assisted Liposuction (WAL) and Tumescent Liposuction (TLA).
Image: Ashley Webb