Related Terms: Lipedema, lipedema, lipodystrophy, lipadema, lipo-lymphedema
Lipodema is a medical condition that is often confused with lymphedema. The individual with this condition may appear to be simply obese and/or to have extremely swollen legs and swollen abdomen. The condition is an uneven distribution of fat cells in the sub-cutaneous regions generally in the legs or abdomen. One major frustration of people with lipodema is that they are accused of being simply "fat," which is absolutely not the case.
Unknown, hereditary, genetic
Perhaps one of the most critical complication is the acquisition of secondary lymphedema. The increased weight can crush the lymphatics causing blockages and hindrances to lymphatic flow. Another complication is deterioration of the joints and vertebrae from the excessive weight. Other complications may include varicose veins and/or the deep venous system. Many lipodema patients also experience a tremendous amount of pain due to the condition and the affects on the body's systems. Other complications may include "pins and needles" discomfort, decreased vascular flow in the affected limbs and a decreased skin temperature in the affected limbs.
There is no known "cure" for lipodema. Because it is not a medical condition caused by over-eating and improper nutrition habits, diets will not a much of an effect. Neither can the condition be treated with medicines or diuretics.
Treatments that have helped include massage therapy in conjunction with compression bandages, benzopyrones, which includes the use of coumarin. Liposuction has also been used, but the long term success is still open to debate.
Lipodema or Lymphedema:
The signs of lipodema are distinctly differant from lymphedema. First, swelling does not extend to the feet, but extends from the abdomen to the ankle. Second, the limb texture is rubbery not hard. Third, pitting edema is not present. Fourth, Stemmer's sign is negative and finally infections that plague lymphedema patients are generally not a problem with lipodema. The reason for this is that lipodema is not caused by a malformed or damaged lymphatic system.
by Professor Horst Weissleder
Lipedema (painful fat syndrome) can be defined as a chronic disease that occurs in female patients and is characterized by bilateral, symmetrical fatty tissue augmentation mainly in the hip region and upper and lower leg combined with a tendency to orthostatic edema. In male patients lipedema is extremely rare (2).
Fat cells have a spherical shape and like any other cells contain fat deposits covered by a micro filament-reinforced cell membrane. Groups of fat cells form lobes which are surrounded by fibrous tissue. The septa between the lobes contain blood and lymph vessels and nerves. Fatty tissue has an excellent blood supply but fat cell-associated lymph capillaries are not present. Lipedema is likely triggered by a microangiopathy with an increased fragility of the blood capillaries. The increased capillary permeability then leads to a protein-rich intercellular edema. In subsequent stages, inflammation sets in leading to perivascular fibrosis, afew areas of fatty tissue necrosis, oil cysts and an increase in the number of the macrophages. Prominent mast cell recruitment and other inflammatory effects eventually lead to interstitial fibrosis (4).
The most common mistake in the assessment of lipedema is diagnosis as lymphedema. The false diagnosis is usually based on the fact that the entire set of lipedema symptoms are often not known and cannot be found in many textbooks. Therefore, massive lipedematous volume increases in the legs are commonly diagnosed as obesity or lymphostatic elephantiasis (7, 8). On the other hand lipedema can be seen quite often combined with other diseases e.g. obesity, chronic venous insufficiency and lymphedema. With lipo-lymphedema, the tissue is indurated and pretibial indentations can be made. Contrary to simple lipedema, the regions of the ankle and the dorsal foot are edematous. Natural skin creases are deepened and a positive Stemmer sign confirms damage of the lymphatic system (7, 8).
Up till now lipedema could only be treated using conservative methods with complex physical therapy and exercises. By this, a reduction of edema and a decrease or elimination of tension and pain could be reached. Nowadays the increased fat volume can be removed by surgical therapy with liposuction in tumescent local anesthesia. However, an existing lymphangiopathy must be considered as a contraindication. Liposuction is the most frequently used cosmetic procedure not only in the United States but also in Germany. Cosmetic surgery is lucrative and is increasingly being performed by non-plastic surgeons and non-physicians, some of whom have little more experience than a weekend seminar. The public perception of this cosmetic procedure as minor cosmetic surgery fails to consider the possibility that major complications may result from this which could cause fatal outcome according to recent publications. Therefore it is strongly recommended that liposuction in lipedema be performed only in specialized centers using modern techniques (5, 6). Finally, it should be mentioned that lipedema is not caused by excessive consumption of calories; hence calorie reduction will not be beneficial. Dietary measures are advised only with obesity.
Allen E V, Hines E A, Lipoedema of the legs. A syndrome characterized by fat legs and edema. Proc Staff. Meat. Mayo Clinic 1940; 15:1842) Chen, S. G., Hsu, S. D., Chen, T. M., Wang, H. J. Painful fat syndrome in a male patient. Br J Plast Surg 2004;57(3):282-2863) Fasshauer,M., Klein J., Blueher M., Paschke R., Adipokine: Moegliches Bindeglied zwischen Insulinresistenz und Adipositas.Dtsch Arztebl 2004;101:A3491-34954) Kaiserling E. Morphologische Alterationenen, in M.Foeldi, S.Kubik, Lehrbuch der Lymphologie, 5.Auflage, Urban & Fischer 20025) Lehnhardt, M. Homann,H.H., Druecke, . D., Palka, P., Steinau, H.U. Liposuktion–kein Problem? Majorkomplikationen und Todesfälle im deutschsprachigen Raum zwischen 1998 und 2002. LymphForsch 2004;8(2):74-786) Schmeller W., Meier-Vollrath I. Moderne Therapie des Lipödems: Kombination von konservativen und operativen Maßnahmen. LymphForsch 2004;8(1):22-267) Stroessenreuther R.H.K. Lipoedem und Cellulitis. Koeln, Viavital 20018) Weissleder H. , Schuchhardt C., Lipedema in H.Weissleder, C.Schuchhardt, ed. Lymphedema – Diagnosis and Therapy. Köln, Viavital 2001:247-265
Controlled Clinical Trial
PMID: 8745878 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Lipedema Lipodema Lipoedema
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