What is Lipoedema?

Some people think it is fat, but Lipoedema or Lipedema is more than just the fatty tissues that accumulate in the buttocks, legs and thighs. Anyone who has it knows the effect it has on one’s health and lifestyle. It is simply life-changing, but not for the better. This disorder of the adipose tissue causes the lower half of the body to enlarge disproportionately, and causes pain, tenderness and bruising. So it not only causes deformity, but also aches and pains.

Although Lipoedema was identified & classified in 1940, it remains to be a poorly understood condition, which explains why most people just relegate it to being fat. Some things are clear, however. It is a chronic disease that can be passed down and exclusively affects women. Regardless of age, size or weight, any woman can have Lipedema. This usually starts after puberty, which is very unfortunate, considering that this is the stage where every woman works hard to look beautiful and slender.

But the most worrying fact everyone must face, the fatty deposits are stubborn and refuse to go away through diet or exercise. It also continues to progress for an entire lifetime, and tends to worsen during pregnancy, hormonal changes and menopause. And the ugly truth? The disease leaves a visual and unusual pattern on the body that is unflattering and can obviously cause embarrassment and stress.

Treatment options

Although Lipoedema will stay with the patient for the rest of her life, considering that it is hereditary, there are treatment options available; those that will help get rid of the visual signs.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a conservative form of therapy that helps remove oedema in the tissue or limb, but that is all it can do. After several treatments, the condition improves at an aesthetic level, but the fat volume remains the same. This means, the body shape that has developed due to Lipoedema remains the same.

Since the condition continues to progress as time goes by, MLD would have to be continuously performed. This is especially true when the effects of the treatment can only last as long as the next recurrence of oedema, unless a patient uses hosiery to delay what can be considered a relapse. Because the effects of MLD are short-lived, another form of treatment must be used.

In comes Microcannular Liposuction. This is a technique that Dr Jeffrey Klein developed in the 1980s and Dr. Gupta is an expert in. Because it uses tumescent anaesthesia instead of general anaesthesia, it is considered “the safest form of liposuction”. It also uses very small instruments (cannulas) used to remove fat, guaranteeing smooth and natural results. Most liposuction procedures are done step by step, usually starting with the outer thighs. There should be a 4 to 6-week interval in between treatments, which means patient must exercise patience before they will see obvious results.

What are the causes?

There is yet no known cause of this disease only that it can be caused by several possible conditions. Oedema, for example, happens when capillaries become too permeable, which then brings pain for people with Lipoedema . Other components that play a role include the venules and lipocytes.

Whatever the cause, one thing is certain, an increased fat volume in different areas of the body does not help one’s self confidence. This is especially true if a condition called ‘Turkish legs’ presents itself, where the fat accumulates on the thighs and upper areas of the calves. Due to the pleated look that the fats create, it resembles a set of traditional Turkish trousers, hence the name. In some cases, fat accumulates in the lower legs also.

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Because liposuction removes fat volume, whatever fatty deposits left behind by an MLD treatment will be reduced. With continuous treatment, patients could see great results and their figure have higher chances of going back to what it looked like 10 or 20 years ago. Even if the fat is removed and the skin is improved, however, the underlying pathology of Lipoedema still exists. Nonetheless, removing the visual signs of the disease and the accompanying fat deposits will greatly improve a patient’s life. It is a chance at being able to show some skin again, which can boost self-esteem and self-confidence.

While conservative therapy has to be done continuously, liposuction is only performed until all areas are treated. When fatty issues start accumulating again, a patient has to undergo the same procedure again. In most cases, however, MLD and Microcannualar liposuction works in tandem. But when fatty deposits are reduced, the effect of MLD is better and stays longer.

When done properly, both MLD and liposuction can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life. A lot of those that have undergone both procedures have been relieved of the pain of oedema and the emotional scars that the sagging skin and Turkish legs may cause.