Do you feel embarrassed by your “thunder thighs” or “cankles”? You’re not alone. But, it might be more than just a need to lose a few pounds. Answer some of the questions below to determine if you might be suffering from a medical condition called Lipedema that affects approximately 11% of the female population.
- Do you frequently experience pain in one or both legs that feels achy, pressing, pulling, hot, or restless?
- Do you have a larger, disproportionate bottom half and smaller waist, or pear shape?
- Do you bruise very easily?
- Do you ever experience a deep, throbbing pain down your chin for seemingly no reason?
- Does it hurt (like a painful stub of the toe) if someone leans an elbow into your leg, presses with their fingers, or you lightly bump into something?
- Do your legs or ankles seem to get more fatigued and swell up toward the later part of the evening?
- Do you try to lose weight, but it never seems to really come off your legs or ankles, or change the proportions, no matter how hard you work? Have doctors told you over and over you need to lose weight when they examine your legs?
- Does the appearance of the fat and skin on your legs appear lumpy, excessively dry, or slightly bumpy (like beans in a bag) when you roll your fingers over it?
- Do your feet seem very cold all the time or especially at night?
- Have you noticed other women in your family who appeared to have larger legs and struggle with their mobility?
- Has the doctor ever told you that your Vitamin D is low?
- Do you seem to have a low immune system, or sinus problems?
- Have you struggled with depression or anxiety about the appearance of your legs or arms, and felt the need to hide them?
- Do you have a fatty area or protrusion of fat that is forming on the inside of your knees, above the knee, just above the ankle, or on the back of your calves?
- Are those disproportionate fatty areas symmetrical (on both sides?)
JUNE is Lipedema Awareness month! If you answered YES to several of these questions, I recommend you discuss this with your doctor. My hope is that someone like me will be able to find some answers as to why they experience the painful fat, swelling, or disproportion in their legs. Lipedema is a serious and very common fat disorder, despite the fact that it is rarely diagnosed or recognized by physicians.
What is lipedema?
Lipedema is a disorder of adipose tissue distinguished by five characteristics:
1) it can be inherited;
2) it occurs almost exclusively in women;
3) it can occur in women of all sizes, from the seriously underweight to the morbidly obese;
4) it involves the excess deposit and expansion of fat cells in an unusual and particular pattern – bilateral, symmetrical and usually from the waist to a distinct line just above the ankles; and
5) unlike the “normal” fat of obesity, lipedemic fat cannot be lost through diet and exercise.
Lipedema shows up primarily as disproportionately large, column-like legs. As lipedema progresses, patients become increasingly heavy in the lower body, or can affect the arms. The additional, expanding fat cells interfere with the pathways of lymphatic vessels, and patients can develop secondary lymphedema, a condition known as lipo-lymphedema. Lipedemic fat can be very painful, and if not kept in check through a healthy lifestyle the condition can worsen, and patients can become progressively less mobile.
Awareness regarding Lipedema is increasing, and many people are finding relief with conservative therapies like compression garments and manual lymph drainage. Some are even having longer term success in stopping the progression of their Lipedema by undergoing lymph-sparing tumescent or WAL liposuction, like I have (read my update here). Look for a doctor in your area who specializes in lymphedema and they should be able to recognize the condition, and if diagnosed, connect you to some valuable resources.
Visit some of these other sites to get more information and speak with your doctor right away! This is one condition that is only helped by being proactive!