A lipedema is a genetic or hormonal fat distribution disorder which normally only affects women and girls. Initial signs of the illness develop to some extent during puberty, and then mostly intensify during or after pregnancy and in the menopause.
For those affected, this illness is a problem that is both medical and aesthetic and often causes a high level of psychological stress. The course of the disease is chronic and usually progressive if there is no therapy.
The cause of lipoedema is subcutaneous adipose tissue proliferation, which may affect the buttocks, thighs and arms. The parts of the body which are affected swell drastically, and they feel heavy and are sensitive to pressure. Callous nodes develop beneath the skin, and these are often painful to the touch. Lipedema causes columnar mutations and deformations of the legs. So-called »saddle bags« on the buttocks, hip and insides of the knees are typical.
Given that the cause of the disease is not to be found in eating too much or eating the wrong foods, attempts to shed weight by means of dieting or physical exercise do not bring about any improvement in the clinical picture. Often enough, in fact, those affected tend to have a slim upper body. If conservative therapies with lymphatic drainage, physiotherapy and compression stockings continue to be unsuccessful, surgical treatment by a plastic surgeon should be considered at an early stage to prevent the clinical picture from becoming chronic.
By careful, purposive surgical treatment, the surplus fatty tissue can be removed by means of liposuction. In this way, even large quantities can be removed safely. If the symptoms are extensive, liposuction may need to be performed in several stages.
Indentations may form in the skin after the operation, but these can be avoided to a large extent with special compression clothing. The surgical treatment of lipedema usually leads to a significant improvement in the overall situation and provides the affected person with great relief.
At present, it is proving difficult to get the health insurance providers to cover the costs.
DURATION OF OPERATION: 2 hours or longer, depending on the type of surgery
ANAESTHETIC: general anaesthetic / semi-conscious sedation
HOSPITALISATION: out-patient or brief in-patient stay
AFTER-TREATMENT: compression underwear on a permanent basis
PRESENTABILITY, RETURN TO WORK: normally after 3 – 5 days
SPORT: immediately if care is taken to protect the tissue, but no sport involving impact or vibration for 6 weeks
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