The condition is often mistaken for obesity.
Lipoedema occurs when there’s an abnormal build-up of fats under the skin. This accumulation of fats increases the production of hyaluronic acid in the skin tissues. This increase in the production of hyaluronic acid turns the fat into gelatin-like texture, making the affected area feel heavy.
The Stages of Lipoedema
Also referred to as ‘Painful Fat Syndrome’, lipoedema is classified into four stages. The texture of the skin and the severity of the condition changes with each stage.
Stage 1 – In this stage, the skin appears normal but may have a spongy consistency.
Stage 2 – In this stage, there are changes in the skin texture. You may be able to see the accumulation of fat, especially near your knees and ankles.
Stage 3 – In this stage, the affected area appears bulky. You may also experience your legs turning stiff and the texture of the skin becomes harder.
Stage 4 – In this stage, there is a huge accumulation of fats and it damages the entire lymph system. You may experience swelling in the affected area.
Symptoms of Lipoedema
The common symptom of lipedema is the enlargement of thighs, buttocks, and lower legs due to excess accumulation of fats. As the condition progresses, the affected area gets heavier. In some cases, the affected area also turns tender. You may also experience pain in the area that has fat deposition.
Other symptoms of Painful Fat Syndrome include the appearance of nodules on the skin, bruising, and swelling.
The affected area may look normal in its initial stages, but over time the skin loses its elasticity. Individuals with the condition may experience bruising easily.
Individuals with the condition may also experience depression and anxiety due to changes in body appearance.
Causes of Lipoedema
- The exact cause of lipoedema is not known. However, genes are likely to be blamed. The cases are most common in individuals that have a family history of the condition.
- Changes in hormones are also the major cause of the condition. Hormonal changes are usually seen in the onset of puberty, during pregnancy, and in menopause.
Lipoedema is more likely to occur during certain phases of a woman’s life like puberty or during the time around the first menstruation, pregnancy, and later in life maybe around menopause, or due to hormone replacement therapy. Hence, women are at greater risk during these phases owing to the hormone changes.