Hatzy Joyce
MAR, MLDUK, BFRP


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Hatzy Joyce, MAR, MLDUK, BFRP
Natural & Complementary Therapies, Cyprus


Lipoedema

Lipoedema is a condition often incorrectly diagnosed, and simply dismissed as being overweight. It is found exclusively in women and affects both legs. It is caused due to an abnormally high accumulation of subcutaneous fat cells that develop from the waist to the ankles. The upper body is usually not affected, and neither the feet - they stay slim. It usually occurs during puberty or pregnancy and both legs swell up, as do the buttocks. Patients can experience high skin sensitivity that is painful to touch and bruises easily. Some may develop lymphoedema as well, called lipo-lymphoedema.

The Western world's view of “slimness” means that patients are under extra pressure to fit in with society. Dieting does not help decrease the size, but a healthy diet does help maintain their weight. Lipoedema has nothing at all to do with being fat or obese! In lipoedema-patients the individual fat cells themselves are normal sized, i.e. small, but they literally have doube or tripple times more of them! In people who are fat or obese, their individual fat cells have simply become enlarged.

An incorrect treatment that beauty therapy centres often administer - assuming that the person is overweight - is to treat them with suction machines and strong massage! It only has a very temporary relief, can be extremely painful, and the legs go back to their previous enlarged size. Continuous strenuous treatments can damage the delicate lymphatic vessels which can then lead to a much more serious condition - lipo-lymphoedema. That really is a challenge!


Treatment

  • Consistent wearing of compression garments, class 2 or 3 is necessary.
  • Even though people with lipoedema have a healthy lymphatic system, having regular manual lymphatic drainage is very beneficial in making the legs feel lighter.
  • Gentle combined decongestive therapy using long stretch bandages due to skin sensitivity has proved very helpful.
  • Getting help from support groups or individulas to come to terms with this condition is also vital for one's emotional well-being.
  • Swimming is extremely beneficial.