The following treatments are recommended to help manage lipoedema and preventing new problems such as Lymphoedema and varicose veins developing.
Compression hosiery is specially made support socks, stockings, tights or garments. Wearing compression hosiery is the single most effective way of slowing down or preventing worsening symptoms.
Compression garments encourage the flow of blood and lymph fluid within the lymphatic system which helps prevent fluid retention/oedema in the tissues and the onset of Lymphoedema. In addition fluid within the tissues is encouraged to move towards the root of the limb, where it can be drained away more easily. Therefore wearing compression garments will hopefully stop the progression of Lipoedema into Lipo-lymphoedema.
Compression therapy may also reduce the level of pain and discomfort often experienced in the limbs by supporting soft tissues and painful knee joints. In addition they provide support to the loose connective tissues and help improve appearance, streamline and redefine the shape of the the limbs.
Lymphoedema nurses are trained to assess and prescribe the type and style of compression garments that are most appropriate for each individual as people with lipoedema often require made to measure garments. There is a wide selection of compression hosiery available from different companies, many on prescription.
Compression is most effective when worn every day and is advisable even in the early stages of lipoedema. Getting it on and off may take practice as for some people pain can makes this more difficult. Most people find it easier to put on hosiery first thing in the morning, when the legs are at their smallest and using specially designed donning and doffing aids can be a great help.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)
MLD is a specific type of gentle massage that is used to stimulate lymphatic flow thus helping reduce oedema (fluid build up). It is also useful to reduce pain and discomfort. It is most effective when combined with other treatments such as compression bandaging and/or compression garments. It is performed by specially trained therapists and it is essential that qualifications are checked before embarking on a course of treatment. Many women say it helps to reduce Lipoedema pain. It is best used in conjunction with compression hosiery. Further details and a list of registered MLD practitioners can be found at: www.mlduk.org.uk.
Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Therapy (IPC)
IPC provides a mechanical massage using air driven pumps and comfortable, inflatable garments that are used over affected areas/swollen limbs. They compliment other conservative treatments such as compression and MLD and are not used in isolation. Patients may purchase their own device to use at home under careful supervision – but caution is required before they are issued and careful assessment should be carried out before they are initiated to prevent further problems. Not all lipoedema patients can tolerate them, especially if pain/tenderness is a particular problem, but pressures in the new multi-chamber systems can be sufficiently lowered to ensure comfort AND improvement in symptoms.