Lipidema involves symmetrical fat deposits between the waist and ankles. The legs are often painful to the touch. In the earliest stage, only the inner thighs may be sensitive. As the disease progresses any touch on the legs may be painful and walking may become impossible.
The exact pattern of deposition may vary, emphasizing the hips, the thighs or the lower legs in different people. It differs from lymphedema by being symmetrical.
Sometimes the discrepancy can be several sizes between top and bottom. Imagine trying to buy clothes when you are a size 8 on top and a size 14 on the bottom! Imagine the scorn you are likely to receive casually from passers by. Someone needs to start a clothing company for pear-shaped women. There's nothing on the market now.
This can be a useful early warning sign, as it may be present before large amount of fat has been deposited or before the pain has spread more widely. Compression stockings can manage the bruising and while doing so slow or prevent progression of the disease.
Other good sources of information: http://women.webmd.com/guide/lipedema-symptoms-treatment-causes http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3309375/ [note: stage III may be rare, or rarely recognized, but lipedema is not rare!] http://www.lipomadoc.org/lipedema.html http://www.lymphedema-therapy.com/Lipedema.htm
Careful diet and exercise can often prevent further progress and can increase enjoyment of life. Liposuction may be indicated in some cases. Unrecognized and untreated lipedema can progress to lymphedema (lymphatic damage that also causes swelling) or to damaged joints and such pain that people are confined to a wheel chair. Weight loss is not a realistic goal. If aggressively pursued it can lead to even greater discrepancy between top and bottom halves of the body and in worst cases to frank anorexia.
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