Meet Sophie, a 22 year-old patient from Queensland. Sophie says she first learned about Lipoedema from social media. While watching a video of another young woman describe her symptoms and share photos of her body, Sophie realised she could relate to everything that was mentioned. Around the same time, Sophie’s massage therapist urged her to look into Lipoedema. After doing some research online, Sophie realised that she may be in fact suffering from Lipoedema too.
Sophie’s symptoms of Lipoedema included pain in her legs after standing for longer than ten minutes, walking or high-impact sports. She also noticed poor circulation when standing as her legs would turn purple or blue, and swelling everyday that increased her pain. Initially, Sophie believed her symptoms were related to shin splints that she was diagnosed with a few years earlier, now, she understands it is due to Lipoedema.
Sophie says one of her main challenges with Lipoedema is the impact it has had on her active lifestyle, due to Lipoedema symptoms that are brought on by simple activities. “I used to love playing netball, but I had to stop due to the impact it had on my legs.” Sophie says. Socially, Sophie says she was impacted while wanting to be out with friends because walking or standing was so painful. “Whenever I was out, I was more focused on where to sit down and if my legs would be okay. When my symptoms started getting worse, I would avoid going too far away from the house.” Sophie was also challenged by her mental health due to body image. “I’ve really struggled to be okay with the way I look, especially knowing that I cannot physically change it without surgery.” Sophie says.
After receiving a Lipoedema diagnosis in May 2022, Sophie began to undertake conservative management treatments which she says helped to manage her pain, although she continued to experience some swelling. “Now that I have more information, I’m better at dealing with it.” She says. Sophie’s conservative management techniques included Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) therapy, switching to a low-carbohydrate diet, low impact exercise, compression garments and utilising a compression pump. Sophie also noticed a reduction in symptoms after having her contraceptive Implanon removed from her arm.
In October 2022, Sophie underwent her first of three Lipoedema-Extraction surgeries with Dr Lekich. Utilising a protocol to manage underlying venous disease and a Lymph-Sparing technique, the Lipoedema-Extraction surgery resulted in 4.3 litres of diseased fat being removed from her lower legs. In November 2022, 5.3 litres was removed from the anterior of Sophie’s thighs and subsequently, in January of 2023, 5 litres was removed from the posterior of Sophie’s thighs.
Sophie says that she shares her case study in the hope to raise awareness of Lipoedema, so that other women suffering from Lipoedema won’t have to feel the way that she did prior to her diagnosis. “There is nothing more upsetting than being invalidated by medical professionals and feeling like the pain is in your head. Following her surgeries, Sophie says she feels as though she has her life back. “My legs feel lighter everyday!” Sophie says.