Lipedema also known as painful fat syndrome is a chronic disease that is most common in females. It is bilateral symmetrical fatty tissue excess, mainly in the hip region, upper and lower extremities. Lipedema is extremely rare in males and often goes misdiagnosed as lymphedema. Lymphedema is usually asymmetrical and can either be congenital, or acquired. The symmetrical enlargement of both lower limbs is a hallmark indication of lipedema.
Symptoms vary for patients, so not all patients will have all symptoms. There is a symmetrical presentation, with accumulation of lipids from the waist to knees or ankles. This leaves a distinct fat ring around the ankles. Accumulation of fats in upper arms affects 30-90% of people. There is hypersensitivity to touch, pain in soft tissues at rest and pain to touch. This often leads to gait and severe joint pain.
The best way to diagnose lipedema is manual inspection by a trained physician. A healthcare physician may feel pea like nodules upon palpitation. As the disease progresses so does the size of nodules as well as in number.
Liposuction as a form of treatment for lipedema is becoming a more common treatment for patients and aids in relief.
- http://www.tillysmidt.nl/LIPEDEMA_Englisch_for_Lipoedeem.html, adapted from this site
- Schmeller W, Meier-Vollrath I, Chapter 7 Lipedema, http://www.hanseklinik.com/englisch/Lipoedema.pdf
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- Fife CE, Maus EA, Carter MJ, 2010 Lipedema: A Frequently Misdiagnoed and Misunderstood Fatty Deposition Syndrome. ADV SKIN WOUND CARE 2010;23:81-92; quiz 93-4. reported “However, in an unpublished epidemiological study conducted in 2001, Foeldi and Foeldi  claimed that lipedema is present in 11% of the female population”.  corresponds to “Foeldi E, Foeldi M. Lipedema. In: Foeldi M, Foeldi E, eds. Foeldi’s Textbook of Lymphology. 2nd ed. Munich, Germany: Elsevier; 2006:417-27.
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