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What is Lipoedema?

Lipoedema is an under diagnosed and poorly understood chronic and progressive disorder of subcutaneous fat metabolism and distribution.

Most commonly affecting the lower limbs, mainly the hips, inner thighs and ankles but spares the feet.
It can also present in the arms and when linked with obesity it may present in a whole body type lipoedema. Lipoedema appears to mainly affect women and appears to be familial. It can occur in women of all sizes. Usually observable at puberty but it may also present and or worsen at times of hormonal disturbance, for example pregnancy, peri-menopause, menopause, post cancer treatments and trauma both surgical and emotional. Additionally, due to the hypertrophic adipose cells, the fragility of the vascular capillary walls and changes to the lymph capillaries a mixed picture of lipo-lymphoedema may occur. Clients may experience column like 'heavy legs', orthostatic swelling, pain and may bruise easily. The lipoedema adipose tissue cannot be lost by diet and exercise. Clients find it difficult to lose weight from their hips, thighs and lower legs. Osteoarthritis of the knees can be quite common.

Management consists of a healthy lifestyle that includes an alkalsing/anti-inflammatory type diet that is low in long-chain fatty acids to reduce the load on lymphatic transport, moderate/passive non weight bearing exercise, education, self help treatments, Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Combined Decongestive Therapy or compression therapies, scanning low level laser and lymph taping. Liposuction is in its infancy as a treatment here in Australia. European Doctors are having good results but only time will tell as to the long term outcome of this treatment option. Clients may also require psychosocial support to assist with the physical, emotional and cognitive challenges of lipoedema and to assist in making changes to their lifestyle.

Please refer to the 'Links' page where you will find some useful websites that have more detailed information about lipoedema.