Lipedema Specialist

St. Francis Sleep, Allergy & Lung Institute

Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine & Allergy Clinic located in Clearwater, FL

An estimated 11% of women develop an abnormal fat distribution in their legs, and possibly their arms, called lipedema. Its effect on your body shape can impact your body image and self-esteem, causing you to cover up and feel ashamed. In Clearwater, Florida, Frank Averill, MD, at St. Francis Sleep, Lung and Allergy Institute offers lifestyle coaching and several innovative therapies to minimize swelling from lipedema and slow its development. To consult with an expert about your lipedema, book an appointment by phone or online today.

Lipedema Q & A

What is lipedema?

Lipedema is a rare, chronic condition that causes fat to build up in your limbs. If you have lipedema, fat accumulates abnormally and often painfully in your arms or legs on both sides, sparing your hands and feet. 

Your fat may be evenly distributed to make your arms or legs look thick from top to bottom, or it may cause only certain areas, like your hips, to bulge. 

In addition to the swelling and bulging, lipedema can make you more vulnerable to bruising on the affected limbs. Fat tissue is filled with tiny blood vessels that break easily to form bruises. 

Lipedema gets progressively worse over time, especially if you don’t take steps to treat it. Eventually, fat can close off the lymphatic passageways and cause lymphatic fluid to build up, further expanding your limbs. The condition can even cause you to lose your ability to walk.

What causes lipedema?

The exact cause of lipedema isn’t fully understood, but experts suspect that there is a strong genetic component. If you have lipedema, you likely have immediate family members with it, too. 

Lipedema is almost exclusive to women and tends to appear or worsen with major hormone changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Hormones might not be the cause of lipedema, but they do contribute to its progression.

A common misconception is that obesity causes lipedema. Even though more than half of all people with lipedema are obese, it isn’t a cause: Losing weight won’t help in toning down lipedema fat buildup.

How is lipedema treated?

Although lipedema does not currently have a specific treatment or cure, the team at St. Francis Sleep, Lung and Allergy Institute can help you alleviate some of the swelling and stop your condition from worsening with guided lifestyle changes and some therapies. 

Your lipedema management plan might include:

Complete decongestive therapy (CDT)

Currently, the primary treatment that physicians use for lipedema, CDT, involves compressing your affected limbs with specialized wrapping techniques.

Lymphatic drainage therapy

Lymphatic drainage therapy is a type of massage aimed at encouraging the flow of lymphatic fluid away from your lipedema. A provider rubs and stretches your skin to relieve some swelling due to lymphatic fluid buildup.

Diet and exercise

Eating nutritiously and exercising regularly have numerous health benefits for everyone. If you have lipedema, eating well and exercising, with help from the St. Francis Sleep, Lung and Allergy Institute team, can improve your mobility and reduce some swelling.

If lipedema is affecting your mobility, self-esteem, or both, book your consultation by phone or online at St. Francis Sleep, Lung and Allergy Institute today.