Recognising Lipoedema

Lipoedema is an accumulation of adipose (fatty) tissue that occurs mostly in the lower limbs and sometimes in the arms. This results in a change of shape – a slender upper half of the body and a thickening of the lower body and limbs. 

Recognising lipoedema can be difficult. If you think you may be suffering from lipoedema, make an appointment with your GP or healthcare professional to discuss this further.

Those with lipoedema often describe or report the following: 

  • Weight disproportion between the lower half of the body/legs and the upper half of the body
  • Shape disproportion - a narrow waist with larger hips and thighs
  • Excess weight on the legs, particularly the thighs, the lower half of the body (below the belly button), particularly the buttocks and hips, and sometimes the arms
  • Pain and/or discomfort in the skin and tissues of the legs or arms (if affected)
  • Skin of the affected areas feels tender-to-the-touch
  • Hands and/or feet appear normal, with no obvious changes
  • Loss of ankle definition and complaints of ‘cankles’
  • Area feels different to normal body fat, as the tissues feel cool/cold, very soft to touch and are dimpled (like cellulite) 

Lipoedema suffers also often relate to the following: 

  • Other (female) members of the family suffer from similar problems
  • Changes to the tissues and the body often show around the time of puberty or other hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or the menopause
  • Weight loss results in a reduction of general body fat, however, it appears to make no real difference to the size of the affected legs/arms, and sometimes makes the shape disproportion appear even greater
  • Exercise appears to make no difference to the shape/size of the affected limbs
  • Many with lipoedema lead full and active lives, however, it can also become debilitating. Some experience a lack of confidence and a reduction in mobility.  Obtaining a diagnosis from a GP or healthcare professional is the first step in managing your condition 

Sometimes it may take time to get a diagnosis, so what can you do before this time? Maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. In general, being overweight does not help the lipoedema and it may even make the symptoms worse.