45 year old Victoria Albano knows what some people think when they see her; that she just gave up on herself. “All this working out and exercising and all this taking care of myself wasn’t doing anything.” Albano told us.
When she was in her thirties she noticed her arms, and especially her legs, were getting disproportionately bigger. No one knew why until a doctor treating her for an unrelated injury said the word lipedema, a genetic issue affecting the tissue in her limbs. No one is sure what causes it, but doctors think female hormones play a role.
Dr. David Greuner of the NYC Surgical Associates knows how serious lipedema can get. “Lipedema can get bad enough where the patient is basically bed bound.” He said.
Dr. Greuner uses a new, liposuction-like procedure to remove the dysfunctional fat cells, making small incisions in the legs.
Doctors can first flush the fat then suck it away while leaving the vessels intact. “We can’t remove all the lipedemanous fat, ok, it’s not possible, but we can significantly decrease the burden.” Dr. Greuner told us.
Albano will have her surgery soon and is excited to have her life and her limbs back. Once a patient has the lipedema surgery it will take about a year to 18 months to see the full effect of the slimming.
Doctors also say certain lymphedema patients who suffer swollen arms because of mastectomy may benefit from the procedure as well.
BACKGROUND: Lipedema is a rare disease that causes severe swelling, usually occurring in both legs and the abdomen area. No one yet knows what causes this disorder. There are two main stages of lipedema that track how intense and large the swelling and pain progress. In the first stage, the skin remains its normal color and softness but the subcutaneous tissues will begin to have a spongy, rubber-like feel. In the second stage, the subcutaneous tissues toughen up, skin color will change in the lower legs, and discomfort will set in. It is usually only found in women but can still possibly occur in a man. Lipedema is caused by fatty tissue abnormally forming in the affected areas. While at first it only creates cosmetic concerns, many times the disease will intensify and cause pain. The excess fat created by lipedema usually spreads to the ankles, but doesn’t progress from there to the feet. There have also been a few reported cases of lipedema occurring in the arms. (Source: www. lymphedema-therapy.com)
TREATMENT: Though diet and exercise can make you thinner on top, the lipedema-affected lower half will unfortunately stay the same. Not only is diet and exercise ineffective on lipedema but many surgeries are as well. Currently, the most common treatment to ease the pain caused by lipodema is called complete decongestive therapy, which includes manual lymphatic drainage and compression on the legs. This treatment greatly helps relieve some painful symptoms. (Source: www.webmd.com/women/guide/lipedema-symptoms-treatment-causes)
NEW TECHNOLOGY: There may now be a way to decrease the effects of lipedema. A new surgery has been developed by NYC cardiovascular surgeon Dr. David Greuner, which involves injecting a liquid solution into the legs that numbs the area and reduces blood loss before unwanted fat is removed. This new surgery is known as tumescent lymph sparing liposuction and is believed to be the only truly successful long term treatment for lipedema. This procedure has produced promising results in the reduction of pain caused by lipodema and lowers the need to seek other therapies like compression. Dr. Greuner says that lipedema is a genetic issue that has multiple factors including hormones and external stress. Lipedema often starts in the late 20’s and 30’s and is often initially mistaken for obesity, but is instead a disorder of fat tissue. Although a generous amount of slimming is apparent soon after the procedure, swelling often masks the full effects initially. (Source: Dr. David Greuner)
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