Lipedema is a common but under-recognized disorder that causes pain, swelling, and abnormal fat buildup in the legs and sometimes arms. This condition usually affects women and can interfere with day-to-day activities, self-confidence, and well-being.
This fat tissue disorder causes an accumulation of painful fat, often below the waist, resulting in hips, buttocks, and legs that are out of proportion with the upper body. It can also affect the arms. Some patients who have tried conventional weight loss methods but didn’t see successful weight loss may be affected by lipedema. Learn more about the condition and the best lipedema treatments in NYC.
1 out of 9 women in the US could be living with lipedema, but it’s one of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions. Lipedema is often mistaken for obesity or the result of an unhealthy lifestyle. Lipedema is not the same condition as lymphedema. A blockage in the lymphatic system causes lymphedema. Usually, the feet, ankles, wrists, and hands are not affected by lipedema.
Lipedema usually starts or worsens during puberty or other hormonal changes like pregnancy and menopause. The direct cause of lipedema is still unknown, but it’s important to note that it’s not the same thing as obesity. The BMI of patients suffering from lipedema can vary widely. Sometimes lipedema runs in families and can be diagnosed based on a clinical evaluation.
There are several stages of lipedema: mild, moderate, and advanced. We can help you regain your confidence while helping you look and feel your best if you have been diagnosed with lipedema.
Several lipedema treatments can help reduce symptoms. Conservative treatments include:
However, non-medical remedies don’t work for every lipedema patient. Liposuction for lipedema is often one of the most effective treatments. If you have been diagnosed with lipedema, we use an advanced tumescent liposuction technique to help remove unwanted excess fat in your affected areas.
Lipo breaks down subcutaneous fat from beneath the skin and suctions it away. Safe liposuction techniques can significantly reduce fatty tissue in commonly affected areas like the legs, buttocks, or arms. Additionally, removing the excess fat buildup can help with mobility issues and pain associated with lipedema.
Tumescent liposuction is a safe, minimally-invasive procedure where different kinds of anesthesia ranging from local (awake) to general (asleep) and “twilight” (in between) are available. Dr. Smith will work with you to decide on the best kind of anesthesia for your individual case.
Regardless of the kind of anesthesia you choose, the first step of our lipidema treatment begins with the introduction of a diluted local anesthetic solution into the treatment area. This tumescent fluid thoroughly numbs the area and helps break up fat cells.
Your doctor will make several tiny incisions in fully numbed areas. The incisions that we use are smaller than a pen cap (3-4mm) and are very well hidden. These incision points allow Dr. Smith to use a thin tube called a cannula to break up and suction out unwanted fat. In some cases, Dr. Smith will add VASER ultrasound energy to help break up stubborn fat or BodyTite bipolar radiofrequency energy to tighten loose skin.
After liposuction, you’ll stay in one of our comfortable post-op rooms for a short observation period. You can move around and walk immediately after lipedema liposuction, and go home the same day as your procedure.
Swelling, numbness, and bruising are common side effects of liposuction. You’ll be able to walk following surgery, and we like our patients to be up and moving right away. Most of our patients are ready to return to desk jobs 48 hours after treatment. We advise our patients to wear a compression garment for one month after liposuction treatment for lipedema. This garment helps reduce swelling by preventing fluid accumulation. Discomfort after tumescent liposuction is usually very mild. Some patients may take painkillers for the first 24-48 hours post-op to ease any discomfort, while others do not find this necessary.
Most patients can return to a light workout in 4-5 days and return to a full workout in about 2 weeks. We encourage our patients to engage in mild exercise, like walking, throughout their recovery. Results become visible as swelling subsides. Early results are usually visible after approximately one month, and final results can take 3 to 6 months to appear.
The cost of lipedema treatment varies between $4000 and $8000 per area treated, depending on the amount of fat removed, the area being treated, and the type of liposuction procedure used. Liposuction for lipidema is often covered by your health insurance. We will be happy to walk you through this process.
Lipedema can be described in terms of both “stage” and “type”. Stage refers to the severity of the condition in a given body area. Type refers to which body areas are affected. Read on for more detail.
Lipedema develops in stages. Symptoms and side effects tend to develop over time, and there are currently four stages of lipedema ranging from mild to severe. Depending on the person, different body parts can be affected differently at each stage. This staging structure helps doctors determine the best treatment for each individual patient.
Keep in mind lipedema stages, and types of lipedema are not the same. The type of lipedema you have is based on the distribution of the fat. For example, Type I means fat accumulates in the buttocks and hips, while Type IV means fat accumulates in your arms. Lipedema stages categorize the severity of your case.
Here’s a breakdown of the lipedema stages to help give you a better understanding of lipedema and how it affects the body.
It can be hard to distinguish lipedema from excess fat on the lower body during the early stages because the skin in the affected area is often soft and smooth. A pebble-like texture can be detected on exam due to the beginnings of loose connective tissue fibrosis.
Signs of Stage 1 Lipedema:
Without treatment, lipedema can progress to the next stage. The skin usually develops indentations, and the subcutaneous tissue feels more hard and nodular.
Signs of Stage 2 Lipedema:
Excess fat will continue to accumulate in the lower body. Larger fatty bulges develop, especially around the thighs and knees.
Signs of Stage 3 Lipedema:
This advanced stage is known as lipo-lymphedema, where lymphedema occurs. The presence of lipedema tissue can interfere with the function of the lymphatic system. The resulting blocked lymph nodes can prevent lymphatic fluid from draining properly. Generally, lymphedema must be left untreated for a significant amount of time to progress to this stage.
Signs of Stage 4 Lipedema:
Understanding the severity of your case will increase your chances of receiving the best treatment. There are several different treatments for lipedema to improve your symptoms. If you’re unsure if you have lipedema, contact us and we can work with you to determine your diagnosis.
Once you receive a diagnosis, you and Dr. Smith will work together to develop a customized surgery and aftercare plan to help limit symptoms, reduce the size of affected areas, and help improve mobility. Our lipedema treatment plans are customized for each patient to both improve functional status and enhance the aesthetics of the affected area.
While “stage” refers to the severity of lipedema, “type” describes where on the body lipedema is occurring. There are 5 types of lipedema:
Type 1 lipedema involves the trunk from the umbilicus (belly button) to above the buttocks and hips.
Type 2 lipedema goes from the umbilicus to the knees.
Type 3 lipedema spans the body from belly button to ankles.
Type 4 lipedema involves the arms.
Type 5 lipedema affects the lower legs.
Liposuction is an excellent option for many patients dealing with lipedema. As one of NYC’s foremost liposuction experts, Dr. Smith will guide you through your lipedema treatment journey, ensuring an optimal experience every step of the way. If you’re considering liposuction in NYC, please book your initial consultation with Dr. Smith today.
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Lipedema has a distribution that is characterized by fat accumulation in the thighs, buttocks, calves and upper arms, with the lower half of the body being more heavily affected than the lower half.
While liposuction tends to be a very effective, long-term solution for lipedema, It is possible to have some degree of recurrence over time.
The results from lipedema liposuction are generally very long lasting, or permanent, with patients being happy with their improved contour for years to come.
Nearly any area affected by lipedema can be treated with liposuction.
Liposuction is a permanent fat-eliminating procedure that can help reduce the side effects of lipedema. You’ll notice immediate results following your surgery, and the treated areas will look significantly smaller.
Some patients with lipedema may require more than one session for the best results, while others achieve their goals after just one session. Every patient is unique. The number of treatments you need will largely depend on the amount of excess fat there is to remove and how many areas of the body are being treated.
You’ll receive a personalized treatment plan during your initial consultation at our NYC office.
Liposuction can be done as a standalone procedure or together with other treatments. In some cases, it may be possible to remove extra skin from the areas treated for lymphedema at the same time as your liposuction. Some patients may be good candidates to have other procedures like a tummy tuck, fat transfer, breast surgery, etc., during the same procedure. If you’re curious about having multiple procedures, talk to Dr. Smith about this during your first meeting.
All photos are of models except before and after images.
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