Swollen legs are often associated with varicose veins. But it could indicate another condition known as lipedema.
Varicose veins sometimes develop along with other lower body conditions, such as lipedema. People with lipedema have abnormally large thighs, calves, buttocks, and sometimes arms due to excess fatty tissue accumulation.
Even though varicose veins and lipedema may appear together, one does not cause the other. The two conditions stem from unrelated causes and require different treatments; yet they share similar symptoms, such as pain, swelling, and a feeling of heaviness in the legs. These similar symptoms may be why the conditions are often mistaken for each other. If you're experiencing significant leg swelling, it's essential to have your veins checked by a medical professional to rule out lipedema.
Consider getting your varicose veins treated first if you suffer from both lipedema and varicose veins. Read on to learn why.
What causes lipedema?
Lipedema has no known definitive cause. However, it statistically affects more women than men. Since it often develops during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, lipedema may have a possible connection to hormonal changes in a woman’s body. The condition also runs in families.
And while obesity doesn’t cause lipedema, the condition is often seen in those who are considered obese or overweight.
The excessive accumulation of fatty deposits in the legs may lead to another similar condition, lymphedema. Because the fat pressures the lymphatic system, the lymph fluid cannot move, causing the limbs to swell.
Lipedema is a treatable condition, but if you suffer from both lipedema and varicose veins, it’s recommended to prioritize varicose vein treatment.
Treating lipedema and varicose veins
Lipedema is a progressive disorder, so it will become harder to treat the longer the condition progresses. In the early stages, diet and exercise may shrink the fatty deposits and improve the symptoms.
If lymphedema is present, manual massage and compression therapy may help drain the buildup of lymph fluid. Some patients may consider liposuction, the standard surgical treatment for lipedema that removes fat cells. However, liposuction has increased risks for those who suffer from varicose veins. Weakened veins can be punctured during the procedure, resulting in bleeding and possibly blood clots.
Remember that bleeding and blood clots could also be complications from untreated varicose veins. Blood clots may also form around the compromised vein as blood flow slows. If the clot occurs near the skin's surface, it’s known as superficial thrombophlebitis. Although painful, superficial thrombophlebitis can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories for the pain and warm compresses to reduce the swelling.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or clots deeper in the legs, may be potentially dangerous if the clot moves to the lungs and causes a pulmonary embolism. Swelling, warm skin, discolored skin, and pain are hallmarks of DVT. Immediate treatment can prevent a pulmonary embolism.
Prioritizing treatment for varicose veins over lipedema can safely prevent complications and the pain, swelling, cramping, and itching associated with vein disease. Talk to your vein specialist about treatment options to eliminate diseased veins as you embark on a path to healthier, smoother, and pain-free legs.
We treat varicose veins in Texas
The residents of Austin, Texas, can visit two Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) facilities in the city. Both offices are led by Aditya Gupta, MD, RPVI, DABVLM, an experienced vein physician who holds board certification in Internal Medicine and Venous and Lymphatic Medicine.
Dr. Gupta reviews each patient individually and develops a customized treatment plan to rid them of painful varicose veins. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Gupta, visit www.centerforvein.com or call 1-800-FIX-LEGS (1-800-349-5347).
11111 Research Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78759
7900 Farm to Market Road 1826
Building 1, Suite 170
Austin, TX 78737