24 August 2020

New Lipoedema diagnosis - rushing into surgery

A new Lipoedema diagnosis can be two things - a relief and/or a huge overwhelm.

The initial relief is the confirmation that you do in fact have a medical condition and you haven't been making up all your symptoms - the disproportionate weight gain, odd shape, bruising (to name but a few). This is not your fault. You have a genetic, hormonally-driven health condition called Lipoedema. Suck on that GPs and family/friends who have never believed you!

The overwhelm can come when you are told there is no cure. Or that the only "cure" is liposuction. Or that no matter what you do it will continue to grow and eventually you will be huge and unable to walk. OK, I may be exaggerating a bit, but seriously, this is what I am told on a regular basis by newly-diagnosed lippy ladies. And you know what? Not all of the above is true.

There is no cure for Lipoedema - true. The only cure is liposuction - false. Your Lipoedema will continue to grow and you will progress through all stages to stage 4 - false.

Information for new Lipoedema clients

Right. Here's goes. This is where I start my "vomiting" of information with new clients: there may be no cure for Lipoedema but there is a lot you can do to maintain your health, reduce your symptoms and slow the progression of the disease (I'll talk about this more in my next blog post).

More and more recently, when I present this information, I am met with ... "I don't want to do any conservative treatment. I WANT IT GONE!". I get it, you've probably had years of frustration dealing with unhelpful medical providers and yo-yo dieting and you've had enough.

You've probably done lots of research and are after a diagnosis (I can't provide one as I am a massage therapist, not a GP/surgeon/specialist) and you've found out that there is specialised liposuction which can help to remove the diseased fat from your body and that's what you're after.

A few truths about Lipoedema surgery

Well, I have news for you. Any surgeon worth their salt will insist that you do some conservative treatment before and after surgery. And to get the best result, they recommend you continue that conservative treatment indefinitely. Let that sink in.

I'm not going to talk about surgeons, surgery or whether or not you should have it in this post.

There are different schools of thought about when to have surgery:

  • stage one, before it progresses - remove all the diseased fat so that it cannot continue to grow
  • before pregnancy - a known trigger for Lipoedema. Again, remove the fat before the trigger and hopefully there will not be an exacerbation
  • after pregnancy - remove all the fat cells and as you won't be having more children then at least that trigger will not longer matter and hopefully menopause will not be an issue
  • stage two or three - to help prevent further progression of the disease, leading to immobilisation
  • Later stages - to help regain mobility and reduce the strain on joints

I can't give you advice on when is the best time to have surgery. That is something to discuss with your surgeon and family.

But again, let me be clear. Surgery is not to be undertaken lightly. While it makes a HUGE difference to quality of life, appearance, mobility and pain, it is a MAJOR surgery. As in, MAJOR. I'm not using capital letters for the fun of it, you need to be well-researched, well-prepared and well-supported.

It is a very expensive procedure, both for the surgery itself and the pre and post surgical care. And in Australia, there is no rebate from Medicare/private health funds, unless you have a Lymphoedema component. And even then, it is minimal.

Recovery from Lipoedema surgery

This is a traumatic procedure, involving general anaesthetics (in Australia, though not necessarily in Europe), lots of pain killers, aggressive suctioning of fat from the body and weeks of pain in recovery. You may not be able to drive for between two to three weeks (at least until you can do an emergency stop). You won't be able to do all your normal household chores - the cooking, cleaning, laundry. Even going for a walk will take effort (but you absolutely must move as much as you can). Sitting at the computer to work from home might prove difficult because of the effect of the anaesthetic (brain fog) and of course you need to be elevating your legs as much as possible.

If you can't get support from family or friends, then I'd seriously suggest hiring help. Cooking, cleaning, driving, laundry - outsource it. You will not be able to do all this for a few weeks, reach out and ask for help.

What are some questions you have about the pre and post surgical preparation? I'll follow this post with what I recommend and you can read my last post, written by one of my clients, to hear what she did to have a very successful outcome.

For more information on Lipoedema in Australia please visit Lipoedema Australia.

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