LIPEDEMA AWARENESS MONTH
June is Lipedema Awareness Month. Therefore it is a great time to familiarize yourself with the differences between lipedema and lymphedema if you, or someone you know, is affected by either of these conditions. Lipedema is a medical condition that affects fatty tissue. Most often, this occurs in the arms and legs, leading to swelling, discomfort, and difficulty in mobility. On the other hand, lymphedema is caused by a physical change to the lymphatic system resulting in swelling of the affected areas and reduced range of motion.
Awareness of lipedema and the differences between the two conditions is critical to helping receive the proper treatment to improve the quality of life for those affected. Therefore, during Lipedema Awareness Month, it is important to arm yourself with the knowledge to ensure the best possible treatment for those diagnosed with either.
THE CAUSES OF LIPEDEMA AND LYMPHEDEMA
Lipedema and lymphedema are two medical conditions that frequently get confused because they share many of the same characteristics. However, the causes of lipedema and lymphedema are distinct. Lipedema is caused by a change in the fatty tissue structure of the legs and arms that cause these areas to swell up. This condition typically only affects women, and there is no known cause for why it happens.
Lymphedema, on the other hand, is often caused by physical changes to the lymphatic system, such as the removal of or damage to lymph nodes. It can also be caused by an infection that blocks or disrupts the lymphatic system, such as a viral infection or an insect bite.
THE SYMPTOMS OF LYMPHEDEMA AND LIPEDEMA
While both lipedema and lymphedema cause swelling of the arms and legs, the symptoms of these conditions can be quite different. Lipedema causes swelling of the limbs that appear dimpled with a lumpy texture. It most often occurs in the legs, from the hips to the ankles, but not the feet. Lipedema will also be symmetrical in the body, whereas lymphedema may only affect one side. In some cases, lipedema can also affect the arms, which will be symmetrical. It can cause pain or discomfort, and the limbs can easily bruise.
On the other hand, lymphedema typically causes a swelling of the arms and legs that appears hard and tight. Hardened red, brown, or yellow skin can also accompany swelling. In addition, the limb may feel heavy and ache. Lymphedema is often not symmetrical, and one side of the body may be worse. Skin infections are common, and they may see fluid leakage through the skin. In severe cases, the ability to move the limb may be affected.
MANAGEMENT AND TREATMENTS
The management and treatments for lipedema and lymphedema can also differ. For lipedema, the therapy typically focuses on reducing the swollen area’s size and improving the skin’s appearance. This can involve wearing compression garments, elevating the limbs during the day, exercising, and eating a healthy diet to improve blood flow and reduce inflammation.
Lymphedema is usually treated through lifestyle changes, compression garments, massage therapy, exercises, and other therapies such as manual lymphatic drainage. Surgery may be an option for severe cases.
EFFECT ON MOBILITY
Because both conditions cause swelling of the legs and arms, it can affect mobility in both cases. Lipedema can lead to difficulty in walking and other physical activities, while lymphedema can lead to chronic pain in the affected limbs and decreased range of motion. Both conditions typically necessitate lifestyle changes, and working closely with your doctor and lymphedema therapist to find the best treatment options to maximize mobility and reduce discomfort is essential.
Lipedema and lymphedema are two conditions that cause swelling of the arms and legs. However, they are distinct conditions with different causes and different treatment plans. It’s essential to identify which one you’re dealing with to receive the best treatment plan for your needs. Understanding the differences between lipedema and lymphedema can help you make informed decisions about your care and give you the best chance of improving your quality of life.
To learn more about lipedema during this Lipedema Awareness Month, check out Lipedema Simplified. Here you find a knowledgeable and supportive group of people dealing with lipedema and its management. Another great resource is Lipedema Fitness with Patti Conute.
Disclaimer – This blog is for general information purposes only. Furthermore, the information contained in this blog is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a licensed healthcare professional for advice on your specific condition.