Lipedema is a chronic condition that causes painful discomfort for individuals who are struggling with this disease. A genetic disorder that commonly targets only women, Lipedema is thought to be driven by a women’s hormones as fatty tissue begins to accumulate in certain areas of the body. Women experience this condition particularly in the leg and hip area and are often misdiagnosed as having a weight issue. If not diagnosed, it can get progressively worse.
A leading medical specialist and Lipedema expert, Dr. Jaime Schwartz, is a board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of the Total Lipedema Care center in Beverly Hills, CA. Dr. Schwartz is committed to helping women with this painful condition while giving them viable treatment options at any stage of the disease. He has devoted part of his Beverly Hills-based private practice to take the lead on finding solutions and answers to what women can do in order to have a better quality of life with this disease. Here is some helpful information on the 4 stages of Lipedema and what you can do to manage each stage of this disease with a specialist like Dr. Schwartz.
The definition of Lipedema
Lipedema is a lymphatic disease. It is almost exclusive to only women. Lipedema is triggered by fluctuating hormones and most commonly seen with early stages of it affecting women in their 30’s.
This medical condition resembles other lifestyle concerns like poor diet and exercise and is frequently misunderstood as “weight issues” for most women. Lipedema is unaffected by calorie restriction or increased activity. If undiagnosed, Lipedema can be life-threatening.
Lipedema and managing each stage
Lipedema occurs when fat cells containing fluid begin to build up in areas often triggered by fluctuating hormones during puberty, pregnancy or menopause. Commonly seen in women as they enter their 30s, the typical target areas for Lipedema are mainly the legs, hips or buttocks (lower half of the body) but can also be seen in a small number of women in the upper arms. When this fat with fluid goes unchanged or “settles”, it begins to build up causing pain and discomfort in those areas. Eventually as the disease progresses, blood vessels become impeded by the Lipedema fat causing a strain on a patient’s lymphatic system.
Stage I of Lipedema:
When patients are in Stage I, they may not suspect anything except some weight gain or fluid buildup in a particular area. Most women will begin to experience a “trunk like” appearance in their legs or a more prominent “pear-shape” appearance to their body type. The target areas that have accumulating Lipedema fat are a size or two larger than normal so a woman’s top half will look very disproportionate compared to her lower half. In this stage, patients will notice some discomfort and may find relief wearing compression garments and elevating their legs at night when sleeping. Patients in Stage I who get an early diagnosis typically see the best results with medical treatments such as compression garments, massage therapy, and maintaining a healthy diet and weight.
Stage II of Lipedema:
In this stage, the disease has progressed and patients may notice a change in skin texture in target areas often confused as cellulite. This change is actually caused by a restriction in blood flow as Lipedema fat builds up. A patient’s skin begins to look dimply or extremely lumpy in appearance and is very soft to the touch. The lymphatic system becomes more compromised in this stage, so the swelling or inflammation is less affected by patients who wear compression garments. Most patients in Stage II see visible signs that cause more concern. Seeking medical help usually results in patients responding well to treatments.
Stage III of Lipedema:
In Stage III, the Lipedema condition presents even more issues for patients. The swelling and discomfort are now on-going symptoms. The Lipedema fat tissue has become extremely heavy from expanding and causes another change in skin texture. The skin in target areas is now hard and fibrotic or “knotty”. In some cases, the Lipedema fat tissue has expanded causing folds in the skin to hang which causes more strain on a patient’s joints. Physical mobility becomes more inhibited and patients feel less relief from therapeutic options like massaging the target areas, elevating their feet, or wearing compression garments. Some patients turn to water-assisted liposuction to remove sections of their Lipedema fat in order to get relief.
Stage IV of Lipedema:
If a patient reaches Stage IV with Lipedema, it can be physically debilitating. Patients have several health concerns when they have reached this stage. Pain and discomfort are a constant concern and emotionally this stage burdens a patient with their quality of life being fully impacted by this disease. The increased swelling and inflammation has caused the skin to harden more and thicken, which only increases the weight contributed by the Lipedema fat. The patient’s skin has lost all elasticity with the expansion of the Lipedema fat and they often experience dermatological issues such as rashes and irritations within the heavy folds. Again, water-assisted liposuction and skin removal surgery are some viable options for patients in this stage. A patient in this stage, if left untreated, can develop the life-threatening disease of lymphedema.
If you are concerned you might be dealing with this condition, seeking medical treatment is important. If you are under the care of a Lipedema specialist like Dr. Schwartz, early intervention and treatments can help to slow down the progression of this disease. Immediate changes in a patient’s diet, which reduce inflammation and swelling, are also key at any stage. Staying mobile through activities like aquatic therapy or exercise classes are key to keeping Lipedema from progressing to later stages.
An estimated 17 million women live with this disease here in the United States. Even though there is no cure yet for Lipedema, special centers like Total Lipedema Care in Beverly Hills, CA, can give women the hope they need to live more comfortably with this disease.
From the early diagnosis to the more severe stages, there are treatment and surgical options to give patients relief. Lipedema specialists like Dr. Jaime Schwartz can help patients manage their symptoms and, in some cases, improve the appearance of their Lipedema target areas. If you are uncertain that you have Lipedema, then call or schedule a consultation with Dr. Schwartz in Beverly Hills, CA today. He can help you feel hopeful about living with this disease at any stage.