Lipoedema is a chronic disorder of the adipose tissue generally affecting the legs, which cause the legs and sometimes the arms, but not the feet, to accumulate fatty tissue. It is distinguishable by five characteristics:
- It can be inherited
- It occurs almost exclusively in women
- It can occur in women of all sizes, from the seriously underweight to the morbidly obese
- It involves the excess deposit and expansion of fat cells in an unusual and particular pattern (bilateral, symmetrical and usually from the waist to a distinct line just above the ankle)
- Suffers find difficulty in losing weight through diet and exercise
Lipoedema usually is triggered by puberty, but can be triggered or worsen during or after pregnancy. If Lipoedema is diagnosed early, which currently is very rare, it is possible to prevent a significant expansion of lipoedemic fat cells by highlighting the risk factors and education on diet, exercise, skin care and the wearing of compression garments. Estimates of the incidence of Lipoedema vary widely, and range as high as 11% of the post-puberty female population.