Lipoedema is a condition in which the legs and thighs (and sometimes the arms) become swollen out of proportion to the rest of the body, due to an abnormal accumulation of fat cells in the tissues under the skin. It is not the same as being overweight.
The thighs, hips and buttocks appear to be large compared to the rest of the body, while the feet are rarely affected. The tissues can be somewhat loose and “floppy” and are often tender or painful to touch, as well as having a tendency to bruise easily. Another common feature is painful knees. There is often a distinctive pad of fat below the knees and many patients have a similar area on the thighs. Due to the abnormal amount of fat under the skin, there can be an “orange-peel” effect, often described as cellulite.
It seems to affect females exclusively and is usually first noticed when there is a hormonal change such as puberty, pregnancy or menopause, but it can occur at any stage of life.
Treatment guidelines recommend a combination of conservative and operative measures. Conservative treatment includes MLD, CDT, exercise and dietary changes. Physical treatments can reduce the symptoms but the shape of the leg will remain the same. However, the main aim is to reduce the burden on the connective tissue and the lymphatic structures and prevent deformation of the joints.
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