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Have you heard of Lipedema? It’s a disease that affects up to 11% of women and causes what is considered an ‘abnormal fat’ to be distributed in an irregular way beneath the skin, usually in the legs and buttocks.
Lipedema often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Typical symptoms are a lower half that is disproportionate to the upper body and column-like legs that often feel tender and bruise very easily. For example, the top half of the body may be a size 8, but the bottom half is a size 16.
What is it all about?
As the disease progresses, fat continues to build up and the lower body grows heavier and larger. The expanding fat cells block the vessels of the lymphatic system, which normally helps balance body fluid levels and protect against infection. This blockage prevents the proper drainage of lymph fluids, which creates the buildup of fluid – a condition called lymphedema. When untreated, lymphedema can lead to health issues such as infections, delayed wound healing, development of scar-like tissue called fibrosis, and loss of function in the legs.
How do you get it?
The cause of lipedema is mostly unknown. The condition tends to begin or worsen at puberty, during pregnancy or menopause, or following gynecologic surgery. For this reason, it is suspected that female hormones play a role in the development of the disease. Genes may also be a factor as most women who suffer from lipedema have family members who also have it.
How do you treat it?
The bad news is that lipedema can’t be cured with diet or exercise. However, it is believed that the progression can be delayed and even stopped by proper exercise and treatment.
Exercise helps reduce fluid buildup, boosts mobility and maintains or improves how well the legs function. Liposuction, manual lymphatic drainage, compression and weight management are all treatments that have been proven to help as well.
Doing what you can to maintain and healthy lifestyle and balancing your hormones through the means you have control over like the types of foods you eat, the quality of the food you eat, or how you handle stress can only help you minimize the progression.
Is there anything I can do to help?
Because this condition is not well known, there are often delays in a proper diagnosis and therefore, the ability to quickly start an exercise and treatment regimen is also delayed, allowing the disease to progress further. I can help you with the lifestyle changes needed to address the things you can control. The sooner you get started the better and let’s spread awareness so those who are affected can get treatment sooner!
Find out more about lipedema and get support by visiting the Lipedema Network.