Early intervention for lower leg lipoedema

by | Aug 16, 2021

Lipoedema can be a debilitating disease, causing physical pain, reduced mobility, and psychological distress. They say prevention is better than a cure and while there is no cure for lipoedema, the disease can be managed, and early intervention is key to preventing or limiting the symptoms that intrude on normal life.

The enlarged tissue in the legs and sometimes arms characteristic of lipoedema does not reduce with diet and exercise adjustments. It stops at the wrists and ankles with a kind of “cuffing” or “braceleting” from an abrupt end to the fuller tissue. The legs usually have a column-like shape with little definition at the knees or around the muscles. Lipoedema also causes sensitivity and pain on touch, psychological anguish, and mobility difficulties (with advanced cases needing assistance from walking aids). For more information about the management of the various aspects of lipoedema, read our post, Lipoedema Treatment and Management.

Preventative treatment or early treatment has advantages:

  1. It prevents the worsening of the disease and complications.
  2. Improves quality of life
  3. Improves symptoms early on, such as swelling, pain and discomfort, general aching of the legs, etc.

Liposuction to treat lipoedema

In our clinic, we manage tissue enlargement in the lower legs and arms with the use of liposuction, where we remove excess fatty tissue and sculpt the lower legs and arms. It works like this: the area to be treated (eg: the ankles) is injected with a tumescent anaesthetic. This simultaneously numbs the area and begins to displace the fatty tissues. A cannula is then inserted, via a tiny incision, into the subcutaneous fat. As the cannula is drawn back and forth in a fanning motion it further displaces the fat and it is removed from the body using suction through the cannula.

Using liposuction/liposculpture to treat lipoedema early in the presentation of the disease can help improve the self-confidence of the patient, as well as supporting ease of movement (without the enlarged limbs to impede it) and help clothing to fit better.

Before surgical intervention

Before going through with surgical intervention, it’s important to address these four issues.

  1. Diagnosis – Get a full health assessment from a doctor to rule out any other conditions which could be causing the symptoms. Lower leg enlargement/swelling can also be caused by chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), congestive cardiac failure, dependency or stasis oedema, obesity, hepatic or renal dysfunction, hypoproteinaemia, hypothyroidism, pregnancy and premenstrual oedema, drug-induced swelling, and some medications.
  2. Education – Understand what lipoedema is and how it is treated & managed.
  3. Conservative management – conservative management measures for lipoedema may include weight management, medical-grade compression stockings, manual lymphatic drainage, etc.
  4. Know all about liposuction for lipoedema – understanding how the procedure is performed, the aftercare and recovery information, and understanding the risks associated with any surgical procedure.

Key Takeaways

  • Early intervention for lipoedema can help by preventing the advancement of the disease and complications, a better quality of life, and improvement of symptoms.
  • Treating lipoedema with liposuction can improve mobility and gait, help clothing fit better, and boost the self-confidence of the patient.
  • Before taking the surgical route, we recommend getting a proper diagnosis and educating yourself about lipoedema, trying other more conservative management methods, and then – fully educating yourself about liposuction, aftercare, and recovery before going ahead.
  • Book an appointment today to learn more about how liposuction could assist with lipoedema management.

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