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Are Lipedema Patients at Increased Risk for COVID-19

COVID-19 appeared quickly and has seemingly spread across the globe at a similarly astounding rate of speed. Experts have been working hard to pinpoint any and all trends regarding this new disease, however, there is much left to be learned about its ability to infiltrate the upper respiratory tract and who exactly is at the greatest risk of contracting it. Today, it may feel like there are still more questions than answers in relation to how COVID-19 is transmitted and how it might potentially be cured.  One widely accepted assumption among medical experts is that there are a few specific groups of individuals who are more prone to contracting COVID-19 than others. This has left many who suffer from conditions such as Lipedema wondering if they are part of a high-risk group when it comes to COVID-19.

High-Risk Groups

While the trends regarding COVID-19 contraction are not set in stone, with plenty of room for fluctuation, there are some groups of individuals with comprised immune systems that have seen a large percentage of contraction rates across the board. Experts feel comfortable at this point in time identifying those who are over the age of 65 as well as those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, lung disease or hypertension as being at a heightened and more immediate risk for COVID-19. Similarly, those individuals currently taking medications that are known to suppress the immune system have a higher probability of being affected by COVID-19.

Understanding Lipedema

Individuals who suffer from the condition known as Lipedema are part of a group of people struggling with a chronic condition that affects fat cell accumulation in the body. Lipedema leads to the development of disproportionate fat cell and tissue masses along the legs, hips, and thighs with the potential for it to affect the torso and upper arms as well. It is believed that nearly 11% of women across the globe suffer from Lipedema which is potentially triggered by drastic hormonal fluctuations. It’s not uncommon to see Lipedema develop during pregnancy, childbirth or menopause and the condition is closely linked to painful swelling and bruising.

Studies of Lipedema fat tissue and skin from patient thighs often show heightened macrophage inflammation counts—something often seen in areas of infection in the body normally. Additionally, those suffering from Lipedema will often have increased blood vessels presenting in these same tissues as well as dilated blood and lymphatic micro-vessels. While Lipedema comprehensively targets fat cells and tissues in the body, it can develop at three separate stages, each with varying levels of severity related to fat cell alteration and mass size.

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Steps to Prevent COVID-19

At this point in time, it does not appear that patients who suffer from Lipedema are at a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. This is believed to be because this chronic condition provokes fat cell accumulation but does not seem to suppress the immune system overall. Unless a patient suffering from Lipedema transitions over to Lymphedema or develops a severe infection, they should take the same steps as the general population to prevent the spread and contraction of the disease. General recommendations for staying safe and healthy include regular hand washing for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap as well as adhering to physical distancing guidelines. When travel outside the home is required, it’s recommended that a mask be worn, and items purchased be disinfected upon return home. In the event you find yourself experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 such as shortness of breath, a severe cough or fever, it’s important to contact your primary care physician right away. Individuals suffering from Lipedema with questions specific to their condition are also encouraged to contact their physician virtually for further insight and recommendations.