Lipoedema almost exclusively occurs in women. The onset of lipoedema signs and symptoms is often associated with weight gain which is mostly connected to hormonal changes - such as puberty, pregnancy, use of birth control pills, and menopause. These are some of the signs and symptoms of lipoedema:
- Enlargement of the soft tissue
The buildup of fatty tissue leads to an enlargement of the legs and, less frequently, the arms. The enlargement appears symmetrical in both legs or arms.
- Weight and shape disproportion
Enlargement of the legs often results in shape disproportion – a narrow waist and larger hips and thighs. Many lipoedema patients report that they have difficulties buying clothes due to the different sizes between their upper and lower half of the body.
- ‘Cuffing' or 'braceleting‘ at the ankles or wrists
The feet and hands are usually not affected and appear normal. The buildup of fatty tissue suddenly stops before the ankles or wrist. This is called ‘cuffing' or 'braceleting‘.
- Loss of ankle definition
Many lipoedema patients complain about ‘cankles’, meaning that the calves seem to merge into the ankles.
- Pain and discomfort
The affected limbs are often tender, sensitive, or painful.
- Changes in the texture, temperature, and appearance of the skin
The affected area feels different from normal body fat: it feels cooler, softer, and can appear dimpled like orange-peel.
In contrast to lymphoedema, there is no oedema present in patients with lipoedema only: pressure on the affected area does NOT leave an indentation.
- Limited mobility and range of motion
The buildup of fatty tissue at the legs can impair normal gait: the legs feel heavy and may also rub against each other. Joint pain, especially in the knees or hips is also common.
Patients report bruises in the affected area, often without a known reason. However, this can happen in other disease states.
A diagnosis should always be carried out by an experienced healthcare professional (HCP). Unfortunately, lipoedema is a medical condition that is often misunderstood or mistaken for lymphoedema or obesity.
Lipoedema has no known cure, but early treatment and prevention of weight gain can reduce the risk of progression.
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