Big legs, protruding buttocks – often, lipoedema is wrongly judged as being overweight or obese.
But lipoedema has nothing to do with being overweight. Lipoedema is the result of a pathological build-up of fat cells in the extremities. Typically, it affects the legs. Since lipoedema occurs almost exclusively in women, experts assume hormonal causes.
Despite a conscious diet and exercise, the affected women typically gain weight in their legs and/or, less commonly, arms. The increased accumulation of fat cells cannot be reduced by calorie reduction.
There is no exhaustive research on lipoedema yet. One thing is certain though: This chronic disease is not caused by improper nutrition or excessive food intake. Experts presume a genetic predisposition as well as hormonal triggers.
Lipoedema often starts during puberty. However, oral contraceptive use, pregnancy, and menopause also seem to be triggers. In men, lipoedema-like changes have only been described in the context of hormonally active therapeutic agents, pronounced hormone imbalances (for example, hypogonadism), or liver cirrhosis.
Experts divide lipoedema into three stages. Symptoms of lipoedema can vary greatly from person to person – not all patients, for example, reach stage III.
Stage I: The skin appears smooth. If pressed on, uniformly thickened subcutaneous tissue with soft consistency.
Stage II: The skin shows an irregular texture that resembles the skin of an orange. Subcutaneous nodules that vary in size are palpable.
Stage III: The volume increase of the subcutaneous fat tissue has progressed further with larger and more prominent indurations than in stage II. Deformed lobular fat deposits that may cause considerable distortion of the limb profile are present.