Detecting and treating lipedema and lymphedema

Lipödem und Lymphödem erkennen und behandeln

Many women are affected. Thick legs that can also hurt. And it seems like nothing can be done. Lipedema and lymphedema are diseases that are often difficult to cure. This leads to a great burden for the women affected. However, more and more people are now interested in purely herbal treatment, in addition to conservative treatment. In this guide you will find all the important information on lipedema and lymphedema, symptoms and causes, the main differences between the two diseases and also possible treatment measures and natural ways to support the healing process.

Lipedema

Lipedema is a pathological fat distribution disorder. The fat cells grow in a short period of time to about twenty times their normal healthy size. This can be compared to a growing tumor. 1 Lipedema usually develops asymmetrically on the legs and hips, the bottom and, in many cases, on the arms. The disease is chronic and develops in phases. The exact causes are still unclear, but it is noticeable that almost only women are affected. 2

In addition, different distribution patterns of the pathologically increased fatty tissue are distinguished:

  • Thigh type ("riding breeches"): thighs and hips affected

  • Lower leg type ("waistband trousers"): lower legs also affected

  • Ankle type ("pump pants", "Turkish pants", "Suave pants"): Lower legs also affected up to the ankles, fatty tissue can hang down heavily over the ankle

Lipedema disease progresses in three stages:

  • Stage I: The skin surface is smooth, the subcutaneous tissue is evenly thickened

  • Stage II: Nodular structures form within the subcutaneous tissue, the skin surface is uneven

  • Stage III: Affected body area with a strong increase in circumference and overhanging fat

Symptoms

  • Noticeable fat distribution on arms and legs

  • Pain when standing for long periods, later also when resting

  • Clothing size of the legs usually one to two sizes larger than the upper body

  • Rapid formation of bruises

  • When pressing the affected areas, no visible imprint remains

Possible causes/risk factors:

  • Hormonal conditions (puberty, pregnancy, pill)

  • Genetic predisposition

  • Vascular damage

Women of any age can be affected. Body stature and body fat content have no influence on the disease or represent a direct risk factor. This means that thin and slim women can also suffer from lipedema. Of course, a healthy weight can contribute to general health. In very rare cases, however, men are also affected by lipedema.

Lymphedema

The lymphatic system is part of our immune system and filters harmful substances or "lymph" from our bloodstream. Lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymph vessels, causing swelling under the skin as lymph fluid accumulates in the limbs. The arms and legs are particularly affected. The damage is chronic and can either be congenital or develop over the course of life. With the right treatment, however, the symptoms can be treated appropriately. There are two different types of lymphedema: primary and secondary lymphedema:

Primary lymphedema

Due to insufficient development or malformation of the lymph nodes and tracts, they cannot function properly. This type of lymphedema is therefore congenital. The symptoms can begin shortly after birth, but usually do not appear until later.

Secondary lymphedema

Secondary lymphedema is not congenital. It only develops over the course of life. The reason for this is various external influences:

  • Operations

  • Irradiation

  • Malignant tumors

  • Injuries

  • Skin inflammation

In general, all influences that affect the lymphatic vessels can represent risk factors. But age and gender also influence the risk of developing lymphedema.

Stages of lymphedema:

Stage I: Swelling also occurs during the day, but regenerates when the area is elevated; if you press hard on the affected tissue, a visible dent remains

Stage II: Swelling persists even after rest and elevation, the affected areas are hardened and the skin dents are difficult to press in

Stage III: The swelling increases significantly and can lead to skin changes, blisters can form from which lymph fluid leaks, the skin remains very hard

Symptoms

  • Unilateral swelling

  • Deep skin folds

  • Slow hardening of the skin

  • No pain

  • No change in skin color

  • When the skin of the affected areas is pressed, a dent remains

Lipedema

Lymphedema

Symmetrical increase in fatty tissue on both legs and possibly on the buttocks (and/or both arms), hands and feet not affected. Otherwise the affected person is usually slim. Body appears clearly disproportionate

Asymmetrical, usually one-sided increase in fatty tissue. If a leg or arm is affected, then usually the foot/hand is also affected. The body appears slightly disproportionate.

With water retention in the tissue

With water retention in the tissue

Pressure pain

No pressure pain

Strong tendency to bruise

No tendency to bruise

While lipedema leads to symmetrical edema, lymphedema can also occur on one side. As explained above, lipedema can also be one of the reasons why chronic lymphedema develops, leading to lipo-lymphedema.

Lipo-lymphedema

A lipo-lymphedema is the term used when a lymphedema develops in addition to a lipedema. The reason for this is often that lipedema is not treated in a timely manner. This leads to a severe overload of the lymphatic system, which can then develop into a so-called lipo-lymphedema.

Natural treatment of edema

Unfortunately, in most cases, edema is a chronic disease that is difficult to cure. However, there are various ways to treat the symptoms and provide natural support.

5 pillars of KPE

The complex physical decongestive therapy consists of two phases. The decongestive phase lasts about six to eight weeks and is intended to promote the regression of the edema; the various parts of the KPE are applied regularly. In the subsequent maintenance phase, the aim is to maintain the success of the decongestive phase and to continue to strengthen the tissue. It is usually continued throughout life. The KPE is also made up of five different components or pillars.

  1. Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD)

MLD describes a special and gentle massage technique. It is intended to stimulate the lymphatic system to transport water, protein, etc. from the tissue. This should eliminate the edema.

  1. Compression therapy

Compression therapy involves applying lymphological compression bandages. These increase the pressure in the tissue so that the affected areas do not swell again. If there is an improvement, compression stockings can be used to prevent further edema.

  1. Hygiene and skin care

In order to prevent inflammation of the affected limbs, thorough and appropriate skin care is very important. Care should be taken to ensure that the skin does not become dry and cracked, as this can encourage infections and inflammation. Even minor injuries should be treated as quickly as possible.

  1. Gymnastics and exercise

The effect of compression therapy is supported by movement. Therefore, those affected should always move and do some sport after receiving compression treatment. Sports that are gentle on the joints, such as swimming or water aerobics, are beneficial. Exercise therapy is particularly recommended for lipedema or lymphedema in connection with obesity.

  1. Training and self-management

In order to achieve the goals of the therapy, it is important that the person being treated is highly motivated. Independence and education show that the patient understands the therapy and regularly applies and carries out many of the components independently.


Sweet clover

Hippocrates (460 to 370 BC), a famous doctor of ancient Greece, already mentioned sweet clover and its healing properties. Its leaves were used in folk medicine, especially for external use, for ointments and bandages/plasters and were said to help against bruises, rheumatism and joint pain.

Meanwhile, sweet clover is an important medicinal plant due to its special effects. The active ingredients it contains are made up of flavonoids, glycosides and mucilage. It also contains coumarin. It strengthens the capillaries and reduces their permeability. This can prevent the accumulation of tissue water. It also strengthens defense cells that are responsible for breaking down proteins in the tissue. This means they can no longer bind water or produce enzymes. 3

Click here for FürstenMED Steinklee 


Prevention

  • Avoid sitting and standing for long periods!

  • Wear comfortable clothing, tight clothing makes lymphatic drainage more difficult

  • Avoid heat – sauna, hot baths or sunbathing dilate the blood vessels

  • Reduce excess weight, eat healthily

Conclusion

The treatment of lipedema and lymphedema is very difficult and in many cases they remain undetected. Many women suffer from the symptoms and the fact that recovery is difficult. For this reason, it is important to treat the edema in every case so that it can prevent worsening and possibly improve the symptoms. 4

In addition to conventional decongestion therapy, which consists of the 5 points:

  1. Lymphatic drainage

  2. Compression therapy

  3. Skin care and body hygiene

  4. Gymnastics and exercise

  5. Self-management

Many people report the healing effects of sweet clover. Its diuretic effect makes it a good supporting medicinal plant in the treatment of edema.

Sources

1. Okhovat JP, Alavi A, Lipedema: A Review of the Literature, Int J Low Extrem Wounds. 2015 Sep;14(3):262-7. doi: 10.1177/1534734614554284. Epub 2014 Oct 17

2. Wollina U, Heinig B, [Differential diagnostics of lipedema and lymphedema : A practical guideline], Hautarzt. 2018 Dec;69(12):1039-1047. doi: 10.1007/s00105-018-4304-

3. Dr. med. Monasterio, C. (2020). Sweet clover - effects. Retrieved from Gesundheit.de: https://www.gesundheit.de/lexika/heilpflanzen-lexikon/steinklee-wirkung

4. Reich, S., Altmeyer, P. & Stücker, M. Systemic drug therapy of chronic venous diseases. Dermatologist 57, 9–18 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00105-005-1065-8


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