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What is Lipoedema (pronounced Lip-o-dee-ma)

Lipoedema usually only affects women, although in rare cases it can also affect men.  Lipoedema is a long-term progressive condition where there is an abnormal build-up of fat cells in the legs, thighs, and buttocks, and sometimes arms. The affected area(s) look out of proportion with the rest of the body. It usually affects both sides of the body equally.  Hands and feet are not normally affected, with the body shape changes noticeably stopping at the ankles and wrists.

Lipoedema can often present itself more clearly, or a marked rapid change in presentation, after hormonal change such as puberty, pregnancy, menopause.

You may experience pain, tenderness, or heaviness in the affected limbs, and you may bruise easily.  It can cause secondary health conditions and problems physically and psychologically.

The exact cause of lipoedema is not clear.  But you can often see a pattern in family members through generations, showing similar signs and symptoms.  It is not caused by being overweight, you can be a healthy weight and still get it.  But it is important to try and keep yourself as healthy as possible to avoid additional stresses and strains on your body.

Unfortunately, obesity can also co-exist with lipoedema, and it appears to be more challenging for people with lipoedema to lose their excess weight.  No amount of exercise or diet will remove or cure the lipoedema fat but will help reduce ordinary body fat and obesity.  It is common for lipoedema to be undiagnosed or missed.  

Lipoedema UK and Talk Lipoedema give help and advice about managing lipoedema. They can also put you in touch with other people with it.


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