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Lipoedema Awareness

Posted by Eqphysio on 21 June 2019
Lipoedema Awareness



June is Lipoedema Awareness Month.





Have you heard of the condition Lipoedema? Many health professionals are not aware of this condition and as a result many people are left undiagnosed and mismanaged.

Lipoedema, also known as "Painful Fat Syndrome", is a medical condition that affects around 11% of women. It is rare in men.

It is a chronic and incurable condition involving an abnormal buildup of fatty adipose tissue particularly around the thighs, buttocks and legs and sometimes the arms. As a result, some people may experience pain, swelling, reduced function or mobility and it may also affect psychosocial wellbeing.

Lipoedema is rarely identified and thus often misdiagnosed and mismanaged.

Lipoedema often is undiagnosed until the latter stages of the condition once a patient develops reduced mobility and other comorbidities.



The cause of lipoedema is unknown. However, there seems to be a genetic component to lipoedema, with women often stating they have female members of the family with similar body shape and enlarged legs.  The onset of lipoedema usually occurs at times of fluctuating hormones e.g. puberty, pregnancy or menopause.



Symptoms can vary from person to person but below are a range of signs and symptoms you may notice with this condition:

  • Symmetrical accumulation of fatty tissue in legs, usually from waist to ankles

  • This fat can also, but less commonly, occur in upper arms

  • Feet are usually not affected and there is a distinctive fatty "cuff" at the ankle

  • Fat pads may accumulate on the upper outer or inner thighs as well as around the knees. These fat pads can cause joint pain and impact normal gait

  • Hypermobility

  • Small varicose or spider veins in affected areas

  • Skin is painful, tender and uncomfortable

  • Bruise easily

  • Altered skin temperature

  • Altered skin texture and appearance



Lipoedema is often misdiagnosed as lymphoedema, an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body. This is a separate condition however in the later stages of lipoedema, lymphatic insufficiency may occur which can lead to oedema in feet or hands. This is called lipo-lymphoedema.

As lipoedema can be difficult to evaluate, diagnosis is best performed by a medical professional with expertise in the disorder.  A thorough clinical history and physical examination should be taken.

Currently there are no specific diagnostic tests (e.g. blood tests, scans) for lipoedema. Imaging studies such as ultrasound, MRI, lymphangiogram and lymphoscintigraphy may be useful, however these tests often appear "normal" in the early stages of the condition.



Unfortunately, there is no cure for lipoedema. Treatment of lipoedema is aimed at halting the progression of the disease and managing symptoms such as pain, heaviness and function.

Each person diagnosed with lipoedema should have an individualized treatment plan prescribed according to their history, severity of symptoms and size.

Treatment options include:

  • Healthy eating and weight management- this can help to reduced non-lipoedemic fat and reduce inflammation. Research is currently assessing the effect of diets such as the Anti-Inflammatory Diet, Rare Adipose Disorders Diet "RAD" and Ketogenic diet "KETO". 


  • Maintaining physical activity and mobility - low impact exercise such as swimming or cycling may make exercise easier and less painful.


  • Compression therapy - Bandaging or compression garments may provide comfort against your skin



  • Manual lymphatic drainage massage this massage technique may help to encourage the flow of fluid through your body to reduce the heavy sensation in the tissues.



  • Psychosocial support - many people with lipoedema may develop low self-esteem or anxiety. Joining a support group can be helpful - Lipoedema Australia                                  


  • Surgery, such as liposuction, may be considered if conservative therapies are not effective.



Cassie and Carla from the Lipoedema Australia Support Society (LASS) were recently interviewed for Channel 10's The Project to share their experience.



If you would like to know more about Lipoedema or would like advice regarding your Lipoedema, please contact us on (02) 9553 8145 to book an appointment.

Phone: 9553 8145
Or if you're in the area, drop by and have a chat with us. We're located at 1/45 Montgomery St Kogarah NSW 2217.




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