If you’ve recently received a lipedema diagnosis you may be searching for more information about this commonly misunderstood condition. Perhaps you’ve only recently learned about this medical problem and are wondering whether you’re a sufferer.
Today we're taking a closer look at the health issue known as “painful fat.” We help you to identify the causes and symptoms. We’ll also point you in the right direction of treatments to improve your quality of life. Joining us today is Dr. Thomas Su, a board-certified cosmetic surgeon and owner of Tampa-based ArtLipo.
Key Takeaways from Alexis's 1-on-1 with Dr. Su:
All of this and more, on this episode of We Are Living Healthy.
For more information go to: www.artlipo.com
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Alexis: Hello, and thank you for tuning in to this segment of we are living healthy. June is lip edema awareness month, and I'm so excited cuz here to help us learn more about it. We have Dr. Thomas Sue of art Lippo plastic surgery. Please welcome Dr. Sue to the show.
Dr. Su: Hello, how you
Alexis: doing? I'm absolutely wonderful.
How are you? Very good. Very good. Yes. I'm really excited to talk to you today. Cuz I have a tendency to look at what awareness months are there for the, and what days, what, whatever else is [00:01:00] going on that month. And when I saw that it was lip edema awareness month, I thought, I don't know a lot about this.
So could you please just tell our viewers a little bit about it in
Dr. Su: general? okay. Well, I think everybody in the health community should start. I would love to, for them to start learning more about lipedema because it's a relatively unknown disease. It's a disease process. That's only been around for about the last 20 years that we've recognized and it's a disease of the fat.
So lip edema is disease of the fat that classically is, has affected the legs and the arms. But as, as we're learning more about it, some people are also affecting the Mies and it's not just normal fat. And that's what many health professionals don't know right now.
And, and aren't diagnosing out there. So it's good that women who are suffering. From this excess collection of fat on the legs and arms that they seek some kind of evaluation by practitioners and they ask their their doctors. So lip edema is a, it's a problem [00:02:00] that besides just having fat in these areas, it causes symptoms like pain, fatigue, heaviness then there's other things like easy bruising swelling.
So a number of other things that make it a disease rather than just.
Alexis: Right. And I know that I read that about 11% of women are up to 11% can be affected with it. What, how does somebody know that it's a possibility that they have it? So, cause I'm pretty sure people misdiagnosed themselves all the time.
So if somebody has this look or this feel, what are they looking for to
Dr. Su: know? Well classically it has been a pattern of fat that really affects the lower legs, the calf and ankle area in a disproportionate manner. So A woman who has large Cav and ankles cans as they, you know, are commonly called in slang term.
That's been the appearance that is most closely associated with lip EDA. However, upper thighs, you know, that are heavy, can be lipedema arms that are unusually heavy here also on the [00:03:00] forms can be recognized as lipedema The easier way to describe or understand is it's relatively sparing the upper torso.
So whereas most people collect fat around the Mies and the waist lipedema patients oftentimes have a very thin torso and thicker legs and arms. Okay. And
Alexis: I know you said this is a particular kind of fat, is it resistant to exercise? What are the challenges that come with?
Dr. Su: Yeah. So, so women who. Have had a significant a real hard time getting rid of any of the fat through diet and exercise in these areas may consider the, you know, that this is a possibility.
Although a lot of people, I'm a lip of selection doctor. So I hear all the time that, Hey, I can't get rid of these areas with diet and exercise. So not all areas of fat that are resistant are lip edema. However if you are a woman who has been able to lose 20. 30 pounds. And it's all coming from your torso [00:04:00] and the areas down on your legs.
Don't budget all. That's a, you know, that's a a, a, a sign that it may be. Lipedema
Alexis: right. And how exactly do you treat that?
Dr. Su: Well there is conservative treatment through ion and diet. I think. Alternative treatments are things that just help manage the problem. And it kind of stays in the same place.
Helps manage the symptoms. Yeah. If you really want a cure or the closest thing to a cure then lipo suction by removing the fat is actually the way to go. And that's what I do. I started off as a cosmetic doctor doing general liposuction in all areas of the bodies for the last 16 years.
But the. Six years have been focusing on arms and legs and I kind of ha happened to fall into treating lipedema patients and recognizing it myself only about four years ago. So that's all I do now. I mean, the bulk of my practice, even as a lipo suction doctor is treating lipedema patients and by removing the fat very [00:05:00] completely in the legs and arms, what we see is those symptoms of fatigue significant tenderness achiness.
Tightness and swelling. Those types of symptoms are resolved. I would say a majority of the symptoms. So anywhere 70, 80, even a hundred percent of the symptoms can be gone. And I think that's the way to go because you're really getting rid of the fat, which is the disease tissue. And you know, compared to conservative measures, you know, you're only getting a little bit of relief from the symptoms and if you don't wear compression garments all the time, you it's still you know, the problem is still there.
So, yeah, liposuction is the cure.
Alexis: And with the lipo section, how long does that procedure take when they come in and the, also the recovery time afterwards,
Dr. Su: generally women who are presenting to me with lip edema are looking to have their entire legs treated. And if their arms are heavy, sometimes arms too, and to do a complete leg and do it in a way that most traditional cosmetic doctors are not treat.[00:06:00]
Circumferentially all the way around top to bottom, right? Mm-hmm , they're treating little patches, outer thigh, inner thigh, somewhere around the knee and hardly any of them treat the ankle area, but when I'm doing it and when other lipedema doc doctors who are treating lipedema through surgery are doing it.
We're typically treating all the way around top to bottom. Right. And it takes. Minimum of two treatments, even someone who's on the smaller side, 150 pounds or so will need the divided into two different surgeries. Okay. And a larger patient may need three surgeries.
Alexis: And then after each one, the recovery time, is there a certain amount of days out of work?
Dr. Su: Yes. It can, three months would be the shorter timeframe for the upper thighs. Okay. Up to six, six months or longer. Would be the time it takes for the swelling to go away, tightness and other discomfort to go away for the lower part of the leg, the lower part of the leg swells a lot more. So it does take a lot more time in recovery.
Alexis: Okay. And once the leg of section is done, if [00:07:00] somebody has larger legs and they're getting this stubborn fat suctioned out, is there any problems with like loose skin afterwards or are there treatments for that included,
Dr. Su: For the medium size patient who is. You know, like I said, 150 pounds or so rarely are we going, are we gonna see loose skin?
And I guess the, the exception to that is someone who is already in their fifties or sixties who may have some looseness around their upper inner thigh. Yeah. But although we do have we have some skin tightening devices that can help a little bit. If someone has a lot of looseness, they really have to have a.
Okay. And you know, a, a thigh lift is a type of tuck. A body lift is a tuck also that can, can treat large areas around the inner, outer thigh and even around the the pelvic girdle area. So tucks, you know, may be necessary for someone who really wants that tight look, but I find that my, most of my patients are happy to have the lipedema gone and have a little bit of looseness in most cases.[00:08:00]
Alexis: Yes. And I know that you mentioned how it is a stubborn type of fat after this procedure. Is there a percentage of the risk of it? Growing back
Dr. Su: with liposuction? Done very completely. The risk of fat coming back is very, very small. And when I say completely, I'm talking about 80 removing about 80 to 90% of the fat that is in whatever area that we're treating.
That's a very complete treatment. Many doctors do the treatment. To just make an area smaller and they may only remove about half the fat and conservative treatments. There is a, I'd say a pretty good risk of, or a chance of fat coming back with a much more complete 89, 80 to 90% treatment. That's what I do.
And I har I've been doing lipo section for 16 years and very few, very few patients have had any significant amount come back, right. Sometimes a little bit. But you know, this is fat. We can't, we can't make a guarantee. That'll never come back, but very unlikely for much of it to come back at all.
Alexis: Yes. [00:09:00] And for those listening I'm gonna assume that if you want something like this done, you can't just Google liposuction. That must be specific to somebody who has worked with a lipedema before. Is that correct? Or what are the credentials somebody should be looking
Dr. Su: for? Yeah, I I'd say, you know, good searches to look up lipedema lipopa suction and.
You know, the thing is in the entire United States, there are only about a dozen doctors, including myself that treat liposuction with, I mean, treat lip edema with liposuction on a regular basis. There may be another dozen or so that have done it and do do it infrequently. Cuz because it is liposuction, every plastic surgeon out there does liposuction, but I would guess that not even one or 2% of those plastic surgeons have ever done liposuction for these lower leg, lower leg areas.
So you do want to specializes
Alexis: well, you're the specialist. So where can people find you?
Dr. Su: They can find me at art lip. Dot com art [00:10:00] Lippo is the name of my business or under Dr. Thomas Sue.
Alexis: All right, well, thank you so much, Dr. Sue. It has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for all the information.
Dr. Su: Alexis.
Alexis: Well, that's it for this segment of we are living healthy. Thank you to everyone who tuned in and or listened. If you haven't already please subscribe to the show and don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram at we are living healthy. And if you have a health story that you would like to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us so we can get you as a guest here.
Thanks again for joining us today. We look forward to next time on, we are living healthy.