Lipedema – hereditary disorder of fatty tissue distribution
Lipedema is not a fat reservoir resulting from obesity. It is the result of an increased number of fat cells that are distributed in an irregular way beneath the skin. Since lipedema occurs almost exclusively in women, affecting up to 11% of women, experts assume hormonal causes. The few men who develop lipedema often have liver damage.
Signs and symptomsOne of the signs of lipedema is to do a Stemmer's test - if you can pinch a skin fold at the base of the toe or a finger then this is a negative Stemmer's sign. In lymphedema, this is not possible (Stemmer's sign is positive). Other signs of lipedema are a tendency to develop spider veins, bruises or increased swelling of the calf in the second half of the day.
In contrast to lymphedema, lipedema is always symmetrical. Lipedema is painful to pressure and touch. In the advanced stages, even wearing tight clothing is painful. In contrast to lymphedema, “Stemmer's sign” is always negative in lipedema.
An overview of the clinical signs of lipedema:
- Negative Stemmer's sign
- Symmetrical swelling
- Pain from touch and pressure
- Bursting pain
- Often "spider" veins over the outside of the thigh
- Susceptibility to bruising
- Familial history
- Skin is soft, nodular and exhibits typical pitting
- In a few cases, the arms are also affected
Risk factors and causes
Tips for everyday living with lipedema
Manual Lymph Drainage
Also recommended are aqua-jogging and swimming, which you can do without compression, because the water pressure acts like compression.
How is lipedema treated?While diet and exercise are helpful, compression therapy achieves beneficial results. It ensures that the edema does not develop further.
Compression garments reduce lipedema or at least sustain it where it is. In stage 1, seamless, round knit compression stockings in 15-20, 20-30, or 30-40 mmHg can often be used. But experts recommend flat knit compression care in most cases. The stockings should preferably be worn every day, but at least three days a week (during exercise as well). Your doctor or clinician will advise you on what’s best for you. Patients in stage 2 use flat knit compression garments (which are seamed garments). In stage 3, complex physical decongestion therapy is applied similarly to lymphedema. This starts in phase 1 with manual lymphatic drainage followed by the application of compression bandaging. This is followed by the maintenance phase and the wearing of compression garments, specifically flat knit garments. They offer optimum pressure stability because the material is less elastic.