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What is Lipedema

Lipedema: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

What is Lipedema?

Lipedema literally means 'fat swelling'. It is a chronic disease of the adipose tissue. It occurs almost exclusively in women. Lipedema is an uneven distribution of fat over the body. The abnormality mainly occurs on the lower body, but the arms can also be affected. Patients with lipedema have a lot of pain, but also other complaints such as psychological problems, fatigue, easy bruising when touching the skin and rapid overload of the body.

The condition leads to increased healthcare consumption and regularly to incapacity for work and social isolation. This is partly due to a negative self-image, movement limitations and pain complaints. The quality of life can therefore be severely limited.


What are the symptoms of lipedema?

Lipedema usually becomes visible at the end of puberty. It manifests itself mainly on the lower legs, hips, thighs, inside of the knees and the arms. Striking is the lack of swelling on the back of the hand and foot. This is present in lymphedema and venous edema. With lipedema, the skin feels soft in the first years. Over time, especially if you are overweight, changes in the subcutaneous fat tissue occur. The skin becomes stiffer and more irregular. This can cause swelling caused by fluid. Unlike other forms of edema, no dents can be pressed into the skin with lipedema. Lipedema can cause small pits on the thighs, popularly called 'orange peel' or 'cellulitis'. Due to an increased vulnerability of the capillaries in the adipose tissue, bruising can occur more quickly. A cold feeling, especially of the lower legs, is another common complaint.

If lipedema exists for a long time, additional complaints often arise. Only with physical exertion, exercises, being active and a good diet can a patient try to prevent or limit these additional complaints. Tumescent Liposculpture is the only correct surgical treatment of lipedema.


How does lipedema develop?

The cause of lipedema is unknown. Hereditary factors often play a role. In addition to the abnormal fat distribution, there are indications that, in addition to a reduced drainage of tissue fluid (lymph), there may also be a slackening of the connective tissue. As a result, a combination of lipedema and lymphedema can develop over time. This is called lipolymphedema. Lipedema also often shows a weak posture and musculoskeletal system. The ligaments (ankles, feet, knees) are especially weak. Physiotherapeutic examinations often show reduced muscle strength, weak joints and supporting tissue. Sometimes a patient suffers from sagging feet. Factors that negatively affect lipedema are:

  • Predisposition to overweight/obesity
  • Excessive caloric intake ('wrong nutrition')
  • Hormonal Factors
  • Sitting or standing for a long time
  • Too little muscle work
  • Heat
  • Presence of lymphedema/venous oedema
  • Altered self-image


How is lipedema treated?

Fortunately, there is a good treatment for lymphedema.

Which treatment is most suitable for you and how long a treatment will last, differs from patient to patient. You will receive all the information about this in the treatment plan that is made for you.

The treatment can consist of the following components.


Manual lymphatic drainage

Your skin therapist provides a stretching stimulus by making a gentle, pumping movement on the skin. The absorption of fluid by the lymphatic vessels is thereby stimulated and the absorption and discharge of the accumulated tissue fluid is increased.


Outpatient Compression Therapy

A combination of bandaging and exercise ensures better absorption and drainage of tissue fluid.



Especially for more severe cases of lymphoedema, there is a device with arm or leg cuffs, which consists of different compartments. This allows pressure to be applied under control.


Therapeutic arm or leg stocking

The treatment is usually completed with a specially fitted elastic arm or leg stocking. This arm or leg stocking ensures that the result of the treatment is preserved.

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