Treatment of lipoedema

Following a lipoedema diagnosis, a treatment plan and co-ordination of care is put in place. This may be done through a lymphoedema clinic as they have the necessary skills and expertise. Occasionally the support of a vascular or plastic surgery department is required. 

Once a diagnosis is given and involves the treatment of the whole person (not just the swollen areas), this generally involves: 

  1. Managing the symptoms that the lipoedema poses
  2. Ensuring general health is as good as possible and preventing progression of the disease
  3. Education around self-care including how to manage the physical and psychological impact of the disease  

By following the NHS goal for personalised care for people with long-term conditions, individual care plans are prepared according to their needs and person-centred goals for treatment. 

The main components of lipoedema management

Depending on those individual needs/goals, a programme of personalised care should then be drawn up (taking into account the severity/complexity of symptoms both physically and psychologically). The main components of care include: 

  • Psychological support (including managing expectations) 
  • Education and advice around family planning, pregnancy and genetics 
  • Skin protection and general care 
  • Maintaining/sustaining a healthy weight  
  • Improving mobility, posture, gait and exercise/physical activity advice
  • Compression therapy 
  • Management of any discomfort or pain 

Many will have had a long journey to this point (maybe relying on information on the internet that may/may not be relevant) so support, honesty and encouragement to build relationships with the therapy team is essential to ensure realistic expectations can be reached. 

And managing all the symptoms may prove difficult by one team alone. Referral to other agencies (e.g. the pain clinic for chronic pain or to the Occupational Therapist for difficulties with day to day activities) may have to be explored (but not always available on the NHS). 

Advantages of lipoedema management 

Although Lipoedema is a long-term condition, there are many benefits to adhering to management techniques. These include: 

  • Improved psychosocial wellbeing 
  • Pain reduction
  • Better mobility/posture/gait 
  • A healthier lifestyle minimising lipoedema progression (obesity can negatively influence lipoedema and lead to a secondary lymphoedema) 
  • Ability to self-manage the condition 
  • Reduced risk of secondary joint problems