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Lipoedema is a condition suffered by 11% of women many of whom are unaware and suffering in silence

What is it?

Lipoedema is a condition which results in the enlargement of both legs and sometimes arms owing to fatty deposits under the skin. It differs from regular subcutaneous fat in consistency and can present with a nodule effect under the skin.

Who it affects

Importantly, women can have lipoedema who are not overweight. Weight is not a relevant factor in who has this condition. However, there is no cure and the condition typically gets worse over time, with pain evident and mobility may be reduced with a significant effect on quality of life.

Estimates suggest lipoedema affects up to 11% of the female population. It is considered to be a little known genetic inherited condition and is believed to only affect women but there are very rare cases of men with similar signs and symptoms. Symptoms mostly develop with hormone changes such as at puberty and can appear following pregnancy or at menopause.

Lipoedema can skip a generation, so a grandmother may be affected and skip the mother and pass on to the daughter. It is unclear why it is passed on to some female members of the family and not others. St Georges Hospital are undertaking research into lipoedema and associated genetics.

What you can do about it

Although first recognised in the 1940s, research is still very much in its early stages and it is rarely taught in medical schools. GPs tend to be unfamiliar with the condition and hence lipoedema is frequently misdiagnosed as obesity or lymphedema.

Sadly, the lack of diagnosis and without appropriate treatment or advice to prevent secondary health problems symptoms can be exacerbated. Without help from from a trained health professional, the condition can develop creating issues such as osteoarthritis, lymphoedema, varicose veins and eating disorders.

How it can affect you

As awareness of this condition is so limited, all too often a person with lipoedema may not know. For the individual concerned, the situation can already be distressing. They may have tried to lose weight by exercise and even yo-yo dieted, often trying every diet known to man, but the fat in certain parts of the body, typically the legs and arms remain stubbornly the same. Lipoedema may become evident in other areas of the body such as the lower abdomen. When the individual has tried valiantly to “lose weight” and stoically attempted all manner of treatments and exercises, they often become downhearted, even depressed and can lose confidence and self esteem. They can consider themselves as failing where others succeed in losing weight and this can lead to gaining weight from eating the wrong foods out of frustration and for comfort.

Additionally, a visit to a health care professional more often usually results in being told about the risks and dangers of being overweight or obese and direction to a healthy lifestyle website for guidance. The individual may frequently feel ashamed and trapped in a body they don’t believe they deserve and believe the medical professionals, friends and family just write them off as having an unhealthy diet and lifestyle and do not understand the issue.

Where can I find out more?

If you have symptoms which resemble those of lipoedema, you can contact Lipoedema UK https://www.lipoedema.co.uk to find your nearest qualified person who can carry out a check and diagnose.

If you are suffering the negative effects of the condition such as depression, low self confidence, anger or anxiety and would like help to gain perspective, LETS TALK

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