Lipedema is a painful, chronic condition that is often confused with obesity. For individuals suffering with this issue, they often times get overlooked as needing to change their diet and be more active. Commonly referred to as the “painful fat disorder”, this genetic condition primarily targets women. Medical specialists feel this chronic disorder is highly driven by a woman’s hormones. For years, women have been misdiagnosed but that is all changing with more medical studies being conducted to help women living with this condition.
One of those medical specialists taking the lead to help women with this painful disorder is Dr. Jaime Schwartz. He is an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Total Lipedema Care in Beverly Hills, CA. Dr. Schwartz has devoted a special part of his private practice to giving women with Lipedema answers, offering surgical and treatment options in order to have a better quality of life. If you are unsure about whether or not you have Lipedema, the following content provides more information about the disease and if your symptoms might require you to seek help.
What is Lipedema?
Lipedema is a chronic disease that primarily strikes women. It may be referred to as a “fat disease” but it is also a genetic condition. Women who have been diagnosed with Lipedema frequently have female relatives that also suffer from this condition. Lipedema occurs when fatty tissue collects or builds up, accumulating in the hips, legs (upper and lower) and in some cases, can be seen in the arms. A typical patient has a normal size upper body or midsection but has excessive fat in their legs. Often times there is a lumpy, disfigured look to the leg area. Lipedema has 4 stages and changes in hormones or diet have shown to be factors that make this disease progress.
Lipedema is commonly misdiagnosed and why
Women in the Beverly Hills area that have consulted with a doctor were at one point most likely misdiagnosed, especially in the early stages of Lipedema. This medical condition mimics other health and lifestyle concerns that are typically weight-related. But Lipedema is more than just about a healthy diet or regular exercise. It is a medical disorder that literally causes fatty deposits to remain located in certain areas, no matter how much a woman does to get rid of it. Since it is a common issue for women, it seems to be triggered by hormonal stages such as puberty or menopause and even pregnancy. Here are some standard symptoms and detail about the 4 stages.
Back in the 1940s, the Mayo Clinic coined Lipedema as fat with fluid which is unchanged or doesn’t go anywhere. This excess fluid buildup eventually causes skin damage where skin loses extreme laxity and blood vessels are impeded which causes more discomfort for patients. This tremendous burden on the lymphatic system, due to fluid buildup, is common for Lipedema patients in the upper arms, torso, hips, buttocks, thighs and calves. Some other common Lipedema symptoms include:
- Target areas where fatty tissue accumulates is sensitive to the touch.
- Target areas where fatty tissue accumulates bruises easily.
- In the legs, which are typically the first target areas, fat will begin to accumulate making them appear large or column-like in appearance.
- Skin in the target areas will start off as squishy or sponge-like in the early stages. Over time as the disease progresses, skin become hardened or thicker.
- The most common symptom is swelling and inflammation in the target areas which affects the joints and overall movement.
Stages of Lipedema
With current Lipedema research, there are 4 known stages of this disease. Seeking treatment with a Lipedema specialist, like Dr. Schwartz, is important no matter what stage you may find yourself in. If you have been misdiagnosed and are experiencing signs of Stage 3 Lipedema, still seek guidance and treatment options so you can potentially slow down the progression of this disease while finding ways to improve your health.
Most patients notice excess fat build up in target areas, particularly in the lower half area. Female patients typically take on a more extreme “pear-like” shape. In this stage, patients can still get relief from compression garments and elevating their legs at night when sleeping.
In this stage, the disease is progressing and noticeable changes in the skin texture of the target areas begin to appear. Skin texture begins to look “marbled” or extremely lumpy in appearance. Often confused for cellulite, the skin in target areas begins to be affected due to constricted blood flow and a patient’s lymphatic system. Swelling still occurs and often in this stage lasts longer which poses more health concerns. The good news is a Lipedema diagnosis in this stage can still have great results with treatments.
For Stage 3 patients, their discomfort and swelling in the target area has progressed to be an ongoing symptom. Lipedema fat tissue has expanded, making target areas extremely heavy which in turn causes patients more joint pain and less mobility. The skin texture in the target areas has hardened and become “knotty” feeling to the touch. Most patients in this stage seek liposuction options, as well as wearing compression garments and other medical therapies to get relief.
If a patient reaches stage 4 with Lipedema, there are several health concerns. This stage is physically debilitating and patients become even less active which only worsens the condition. There are more dermatological issues with the skin folds in target areas causing more skin infections or rashes. Pain and discomfort for a patient only worsens, and emotionally, this stage burdens a patient with their quality of life being fully impeded by this disease. A patient in this stage, if left untreated, can develop the life-threatening disease of lymphedema.
From early onset stages to the severe stages of Lipedema, this disease is a progressive lymphatic condition and should not be overlooked. There is no cure but there are treatment options with Lipedema specialists like Dr. Jaime Schwartz. He can help you manage your symptoms and, in some cases, improve the appearance of your Lipedema condition so you can get back to living with this disease.
Total Lipedema Care in Beverly Hills strives to give patients struggling with this disease answers and treatment options in order to give them hope for a better quality of life. Dr. Jaime Schwartz is a recognized expert with Lipedema and has helped countless patients from all over the country find a manageable and treatable way to live with this condition. If you are uncertain you have Lipedema or have more questions about this disease, then call or schedule a consultation appointment with Dr. Schwartz today. He is committed to helping more and more women know Lipedema and help them fight it at any stage.