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Symptoms

In Lipoedema,  the hips, buttocks and leg, are out of proportion with the rest of the body.  The amount of Lipoedema a woman has and the way it is distributed on her legs and hips, varies between women, some may just have small pockets of fat above the ankles for example, while in others there’s an obvious discrepancy in size between their upper and lower body. Lipoedema can also develop in the upper arms.

Lipoedema most often develops at times of hormonal change, often at puberty, before which time a person will have had a ‘normal’ body shape  Lipoedema can be very distressing  if the affected area does not reduce in size, despite following the same healthy diet and exercise routines as family or friends.

Unlike normal weight gain caused by over-eating or lack of exercise, Lipoedema fat often (but not always) can be painful or feel heavy and hurt when banged or scraped, even gently.  It also can bruise easily and many women experience multiple frequent bruising. There doesn’t appear to be any correlation between size of areas effected and how painful it is.

Lipoedema looks and feels different to normal body fat; softer and dimpled, like cellulite. Even women with Lipoedema who’ve developed Anorexia Nervosa can still display clear physical symptoms.

Women with Lipoedema can be more prone to:

Lymphoedema

Lymphoedema is swelling that occurs when the lymphatic system stops draining the tissues adequately. There are many reasons why this happens. With Lipoedema it seems that body shape distortion – around the ankles for example – means the lymph system struggles to cope in that area and fails to drain the area of excess fluid efficiently. Fluid then builds up in the tissues. At this stage the condition of Lipoedema is re-classified as Lipo-lymphoedema. It is often only at this point that women are referred to specialist centres for the first time, usually for lymphoedema treatment. After many years of having the symptoms, their Lipoedema is finally recognised.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are a common problem for women with Lipoedema. Wearing compression hosiery will help prevent them.

Knee Pain

Women with Lipoedema will frequently complain of knee pain which may be diagnosed as Osteoarthritis.

Obesity

Although Lipoedema is distinct from obesity, having Lipoedema does not mean you cannot become obese. However, Lipoedema will distort Body Mass Index (BMI) calculations when considering whether or not Lipoedema patients are overweight in the conventional sense.

Women with Lipoedema often try multiple diets to control the size of their limbs by dieting without success. Many are accused of overeating, even when they consume very few calories.  However, eating too many calories will create normal fat and can lead to obesity in other areas.  Eating healthily and avoiding high calorie foods is important to remaining mobile and fit. Eating disorders are not uncommon, including under-eating, over-eating and over-exercising.

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Psychological Impact

Living with Lipoedema can be challenging, especially as it is so poorly understood by most health professionals and often misdiagnosed as obesity. This denies the sufferer access to expert services and often leads to psychological problems when it is inferred that the Lipoedema is the result of poor self-control and over-eating. Difficulty in finding clothes that fit and poor self-image may lead to a lack of confidence.