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Are Lipedema Patients at Increased Risk for COVID-19?

The arrival of COVID-19 on the global health scene has put the vast majority of the population in a position where there seem to simply be more questions than answers. As this new strain has made its way across the planet, experts have been working hard to identify trends, put protective orders in place and ultimately, look for a cure for something that’s undeniably difficult to contain. It’s generally assumed that a little can go a long way in preventing the spread of COVID-19, but one of the most daunting aspects of the virus seems to be how it puts those with underlying health conditions at heightened risk. So what does that mean for those individuals that suffer from Lipedema? Many are asking if this condition is a gateway to contracting COVID-19.

Those Assumed to Be at Risk

While COVID-19 is new and there is much left to be learned, medical experts have been able to pinpoint a few categories of individuals that are at an increased risk of contracting the disease. To date, those are considered to be individuals over the age of 65, those that are currently taking medications that ultimately suppress the immune system and those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, lung disease or cancer. COVID-19 has shown a trend of quickly being able to infiltrate the lungs of those that experience any or a combination of these conditions.

The Specifics of Lipedema

The chronic nature of Lipedema makes it easy for some to assume that those that suffer from the condition are more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. Lipedema is widely recognized as a condition where fat cells accumulate disproportionately throughout the lower extremities with the possibility of the condition extending into the torso and upper arms as well. Lipedema is associated with painful swelling in these same extremities and those individuals suffering from the condition are often prone to excessive bruising.

Lipedema presents in three distinct stages with varying sizes and severity of fat cells and masses developing. Histology of tissue sampled from patients that suffer from Lipedema often shows increased macrophage inflammation numbers—a scenario very common in areas of infection throughout the body. Patients presenting with Lipedema are often noted to have dilated blood and lymphatic micro-vessels in the affected areas as well as fat cells with increased dimensions. It’s not uncommon to see the increased development of new blood vessels in Lipedema thigh skin and fat tissue.

 Conclusions Related to Increased Risk Potential

While Lipedema directly affects fat cells and causes significant inflammation in the tissue of the extremities, patients who suffer from Lipedema are not presumed to be at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 at this point in time. This chronic condition is assumed to exclusively affect tissue and unless an individual with Lipedema ends up with a severe infection or the condition transitions into Lymphedema, they do not appear to be at increased risk. That being said, the chronic nature of this condition does mean that an individual with Lipedema who contracts COVID-19 could be more susceptible to presenting with more serious symptoms overall.

Steps should be taken by those with Lipedema to prevent the transmission and contraction of COVID -19 in line with those regulations put in place by the CDC for the general population at this time. It’s essential to perform regular handwashing of at least 20-second at a time using warm water and soap with hand sanitizer working as an alternative option. Staying indoors and distancing from others is imperative to preventing the spread of the infection and if a trip outdoors is necessary, a mask should be worn to prevent transmission by air. Those that develop symptoms including a cough, fever or shortness of breath are encouraged to contact their physician by phone immediately.