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Lipedema is a condition that causes excess fat to accumulate in the lower part of the body. Lipedema most often involves the buttocks, thighs, and calves. The upper arms can also be affected. The condition does not affect the hands or feet. It can also lead to debilitating symptoms if left untreated, including chronic pain and the inability to walk or move around easily.

What Causes Lipedema?

The exact cause of lipedema is unknown. But the condition runs in families and may be inherited. The condition occurs almost exclusively in women, and usually starts or gets worse at the time of puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. Because of this, there is likely a connection to hormones. Lipedema is not caused by obesity but more than half of patients with this condition are overweight or obese.

What Are the Symptoms of Lipedema?

Lipedema occurs in stages, with symptoms becoming progressively worse as the disease progresses. Depending on the stage, symptoms of lipedema may include:

  • Symmetrical swelling of the legs or arms.
  • Skin that feels “spongy”.
  • Skin that is sensitive to the touch.
  • Skin that bruises easily.
  • Skin that has excess varicose or spider veins.
  • Consistent pain or swelling in the legs that changes or becomes worse throughout the day or with activity.

Is There Treatment for Lipedema?

While there is no cure for lipedema, treatment can help reduce symptoms and stop the progression of the disease. Treatment options for lipedema may include:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can help prevent further fat from accumulating.
  • Keeping a good skin care routine can help keep the affected skin feeling moisturized, which can prevent dry, painful skin from developing and leading to further complications.
  • Compression socks, stockings, or other bandages applied to the affected skin can help reduce swelling, pain, and discomfort.
  • In some cases, liposuction can help remove excess fat accumulation and improve symptoms and overall quality of life.
  • In some severe cases, surgical debulking may be necessary.

Lipedema, which was first recognized by the Mayo Clinic in the 1940s, is estimated to affect approximately 11% of women in the United States. While the disease is genetically and hormonally based, it is often confused with obesity, which leads many insurance companies to deny medically necessary treatment for women who have been diagnosed with lipedema.

Insurance companies often deny liposuction or surgery for lipedema on that grounds that that treatment is “cosmetic” in nature and therefore not medically necessary while overlooking the fact that “reconstructive” surgery is generally considered medically necessary.

If you or someone you know is suffering from lipedema or any other illness, and you are being denied benefits by your insurer, please call Kantor & Kantor for a free consultation or use our online contact form. We understand, and we can help.