Spot the signs of Lipoedema
Having abnormally large lower limbs – with so-called “cankles” or “tree trunk legs” – is not always down to obesity. If you think your lower limbs are disproportionately larger than your upper body, then you may be suffering from lipoedema.
Lipoedema is estimated to affect around 10% of women in the UK, but is poorly recognised and managed. Without diagnosis, sufferers tend to believe they simply have “fat legs” which gradually get worse and are resistant to diet or exercise.
If you feel like your legs are abnormally large and your quality of life is affected, you may have a condition called lipoedema. Typical symptoms include:
- Pain in the legs
- Pain when you put pressure on the skin
- Tendency to bruise easily
- Joint hypermobility
- Ankle swelling after sitting or standing for a long time
- Lower back pain
- Knee pain or history of knee osteoarthritis
- Kneecap dislocation
- Little or no hair growth on legs
- The fat on the lower limbs feels lumpy
- Legs feeling cold
- Varicose veins
There can be many symptoms of lipoedema, but the overall appearance of the legs tends to be column-like with ‘pantaloon ankle’ deformity (also called “ankle cuffing”).
Lipoedema sufferers are often very frustrated and self-conscious with their legs. No matter how much they diet or exercise, they cannot reduce the size of their legs. This is complicated by the fact that many lipoedema sufferers cannot exercise because of the pain in the legs and end up gaining more weight.
Lipoedema typically presents at puberty, pregnancy or menopause and gradually gets worse if not treated properly.
Watch an amazing account of life after lipoedema surgery from Angela, who recounts the life-limiting effects of her condition before surgery. Before surgery, Angela needed two walking sticks for many years. Following surgery, she now walks two miles at a time and can go swimming regularly:
The stages of lipoedema
Stage 1: Mild enlargement of the lower limbs and the fat has a soft consistency. This stage can last for several years.
Stage 2: Moderate enlargement of the lower limbs, the skin becomes slightly harder and uneven, due to increasing nodules in the fat layer. This appearance is often referred to as “mattressing”.
Stage 3: Large enlargement of the lower limbs with folds of excess skin / lobules. Fat has a very nodular consistency and nodules vary in size from walnut to fist-size. Skin bulges are most common around the knee area.
Different types of lipoedema
Not every case is exactly the same, however it should be diagnosed by a specialist with extensive experience in lipoedema. The European Lymphology Society identifies 5 types of lipoedema, based on where the fat is distributed.
Type 1: Buttock and hips
Type 2: Buttocks to knees
Type 3: Buttocks to ankles
Type 4: Arms and legs
Type 5: Lipo-lymphoedema
What to do if you think you have lipoedema
If you think you suffer from lipoedema or your quality of life is suffering due to lower limb pain, difficulty in finding clothes to fit correctly or the emotional impact of lipoedema, then
then you should book a consultation with our specialist lipoedema surgeon Mr Vasu Karri.