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Beryl asked...

What is lipoedema?

Tags: diet , fat , nutrition

Do you have any information on lipodema, other than treatment with liposuction? How is lipodema caused, and, in those who don't suffer from the condition, how is the fat removed from the body?

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The answer

Lipoedema is a condition in which the top and bottom halves of your body are out of proportion, with your bottom half (hips, buttocks and legs) disproportionately fat compared to the top half. It is almost certainly an inherited condition. It virtually only affects women, usually starts around puberty and often runs in families (although it may skip a generation).

Unfortunately, lipoedema fat can be tender when it’s hit even gently, and doesn’t respond to diet or exercise in the way that other fat does. The fat is different to other fat – it tends to look dimpled like cellulite and feel softer than normal fat. There is no genetic test for it, so it has to be diagnosed on the grounds of a combination of appearance and distribution, as well as family history.

Some women report that their symptoms are worse if they eat a lot of salt or drink a lot of alcohol, as well as if they do a lot of ‘high impact’ exercise (step aerobics, squash etc.) so it may be worth avoiding these. However, low impact exercise such as walking and cycling can be very helpful, since they increase lymphatic drainage and improve blood flow. Swimming is probably best of all.

In terms of formal treatment, liposuction can help but can cause new fatty deposits to appear and can also cause infection and scarring. Compression stockings and manual lymphatic drainage can help reduce pain.

Answered by Dr Sarah Jarvis.

 

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