This condition occurs almost always in women and there is often a genetic link with another woman in the family history having similar issues.
Abnormally large amounts of fatty tissue (adipose) are deposited in the lower half of the body, mainly around hips, inner knees and ankles.
The feet are not involved and hence a characteristic shape to legs is one diagnostic factor.
There is often acute tenderness in the tissues of the lower legs and tissues usually bruise easily. People with this condition find it very hard to lose weight from hips and thighs and when attempting weight reduction tactics, they will complain that weight is only lost above the waist.
The size of affected legs will not reduce with elevation as occurs with early lymphoedema. This is because the increase in size of limbs is not the result of increased limb volume, at least not initially. However with prolonged pressure changes on the lymphatic system from the fatty tissue, the lymphatic function will become disturbed in about 50% of the cases over time.Those cases are then referred to as
lipo-lymphoedema because of the combination of factors affecting the limbs.
Skin changes are minimal with lipoedema, unlike lymphoedema, and as there is little dermal (skin) thickening and fibrotic tissue change that will often occur where lymphoedema exists.
Since the size of limb may not be able to be dramatically reduced, treatment strategies are aimed at improving tissue symptoms, such as tenderness and heaviness.
Preventing disruption or improving lymphatic function through laser therapy, lymphatic drainage massage and strategies for home care must also be incorporated.
Osteoarthritis of knee joints and over pronated feet and "dropped" arches are often associated problems in women with lipoedema, and hence may also need physiotherapy intervention and referral to podiatrists.