Anyone who has lipodermatosclerosis needs conservative treatments to relieve pain and discomfort and help control the progress of the disease. A conservative treatment is non-invasive, and a way to relieve symptoms on your own without medical procedures.
Conservative treatment is recommended whether you are candidate for a medical procedure or not. In fact, insurance companies often require a history of conservative treatment before they will approve a medical procedure for lipodermatosclerosis or related vein problems.
What Is Lipodermatosclerosis?
Lipodermatosclerosis is a condition involving changes to the lower legs, often occurring in individuals with venous insufficiency (a condition in which blood flow through the veins is inadequate, causing blood to pool in the lower legs). This disease involves inflammation of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat.
A large percentage of people with lipodermatosclerosis suffer with obesity. Although the exact cause of this condition is unknown, it is associated with vein problems and being overweight.
What Are the Symptoms of Lipodermatosclerosis?
Symptoms of lipodermatosclerosis may appear in one or both legs above the ankle. They may include:
- Hardening of the skin
- Localized thickening of the skin
- Increased pigmentation
- Edema and swelling
- Atrophie blanche (small, white, scarred areas of skin)
- Inverted champagne bottle or bowling pin appearance of the lower leg
- Varicose veins
Treatment Options for Lipodermatosclerosis
Patients with lipodermatosclerosis are not only dealing with the pain and discomfort associated with this condition, but also the effects the condition can have on the appearance. Treatment for lipodermatosclerosis is both medical and cosmetic.
When lipodermatosclerosis occurs, it is usually as a result of venous insufficiency. Many people have found relief through surgical and minimally-invasive treatments. However, medical and surgical procedures are not the only treatments available. Conservative treatments, alone or in combination with medical procedures, can help patients deal better with lipodermatosclerosis.
Conservative Treatments for Lipodermatosclerosis
Conservative treatments are measures you can take on your own to maintain the health of your veins that do not involve any type of medical procedure.
Walking, Swimming, or Other Exercise for the Legs
The importance of exercising the legs for patients with lipodermatosclerosis cannot be overstated. When the calf muscles are pumping (as in walking), it helps pump blood back up to the heart from the feet and lower legs. This improves circulation, reduces vein pressure, and helps relieve symptoms of lipodermatosclerosis.
Avoiding Prolonged Sitting or Standing
Sitting or standing for long periods of time can cause blood to pool in the leg veins and increase the pressure within the veins. Unfortunately, many people have jobs that involve sitting at a desk for long hours at a time, including office workers, accountants, engineers, and countless other jobs. Others have jobs that require them to be on their feet for long periods; for example, waitresses, hairdressers, any many other jobs.
If your job requires you to sit or stand for long periods of time, it is important to take breaks and walk around for approximately 5 minutes. Do this after every 45 minute period of sitting or standing.
Shedding Excess Pounds
Obesity is a major contributing factor to venous disease and lipodermatosclerosis. Carrying around extra pounds puts extra pressure on your veins. Over time, the veins begin to bulge and blood pools in the leg veins. For an overweight patient, losing a significant amount of weight can improve symptoms of vein disease and lipodermatosclerosis.
Elevating the Legs
Elevating the legs above the hips can help restore normal circulation and help relieve pressure in the lower leg veins. Try to sit with your feet propped on a stool or footrest as much as possible during the day. Sleep with your feet resting on a pillow to elevate your legs over your hips.
Compression therapy is often a central part of a treatment plan for lipodermatosclerosis. It is a simple, effective method of increasing blood flow in the lower limbs. Compression stockings are worn to apply gentle pressure to the ankles and legs to help stretch out vein walls, improve circulation, and reduce swelling.
Compression stockings allow for graduated pressure from the ankles up the leg. By squeezing the tissues of the legs and the walls of the veins, they can help the blood return to the heart, improve the flow of lymph fluid, and reduce tissue swelling.
Many people in a wide range of occupations wear compression stockings, including pilots, flight attendants, nurses, and runners. However, the main candidates for compression therapy are patients with chronic vein disease and related conditions, including lipodermatosclerosis. This treatment can help alleviate pain and discomfort and help loosen constriction between the walls of the veins.
Wearing compression hose while traveling can encourage blood flow through the veins and help prevent clotting (deep vein thrombosis). It is also important to get up and walk around occasionally, whether that means stretching your legs on a cruising plane or making a rest stop at a gas station while driving.
While it is possible to buy compressions stockings over the counter, it is much better to work with a medical professional, such as a physician at South Texas Vein Institute. To obtain the best results from compression therapy, the correct amount of pressure should be applied to the right areas for the proper length of time. Our knowledgeable vein doctor can recommend the right type of compression stockings to achieve optimal results.
Types of Compression Stockings
Compression stockings come in different styles and are designed for different compression grades. Styles in compression hose include:
- Knee highs: These may be thick cushion socks or ultra-thin sheer pantyhose material. They come in open and closed toe styles and many different colors.
- Thigh highs: When full compression is required on one or both legs, thigh high compression stockings are used. Silicone bands minimize slippage. These stockings also come in different colors, fabric, and toe styles.
- Pantyhose: When full leg support is required for both legs, compression pantyhose are the garment of choice.
Different compression stockings come in various compression strengths. Those of 20 mmHg or higher require a prescription from a doctor (mmHg is millimeters of mercury – a unit of pressure measurement). These are the compression stockings used to treat various medical conditions, including lipodermatosclerosis. Lower compression grades are used more for general comfort and support.
Medical Procedures to Treat Vein Disease and Lipodermatosclerosis
Lipodermatosclerosis is a painful condition in which the subcutaneous fat in the lower leg becomes inflamed. The skin hardens and changes occur in pigmentation, along with swelling, redness, and a bowling pin appearance of the lower leg.
This condition often results from venous insufficiency and other vein problems. At South Texas Vein Institute, in addition to conservative treatment counseling, we perform a range of vein treatment procedures, including:
- Sclerotherapy: Used to treat spider veins and small varicose veins, sclerotherapy is performed by injecting an irritant that causes inflammation, coagulation, and narrowing of the wall of the blood vessel. This causes the vein to scar and forces blood to re-route through healthier capillaries and veins. The collapsed vein is reabsorbed by the body, and treated veins tend to fade within a few weeks.
- Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA): Endovenous RFA is an alternative, minimally-invasive vein treatment that uses radiofrequency energy. The surgeon makes a small incision near the knee and threads a small catheter through the vein. Radiofrequency waves are applied to heat the vein. The heat destroys the vein, which is absorbed by the body over time.
- Laser Ablation: With advanced laser treatment for varicose veins, patients see excellent medical and cosmetic results, with quick recovery and minimal post-surgical pain, bruising, and swelling. Your doctor uses ultrasound to map the varicose vein and then inserts a thin fiber into the vein through which laser light energy is emitted. This treatment closes the vein and reroutes blood flow to healthier veins. Veins on the surface connected to the treated vein usually shrink after treatment.
What Type of Lipodermatosclerosis Treatment is Right for You?
Many lipodermatosclerosis patients find relief with a treatment plan that combines a medical procedure with ongoing conservative treatment. At South Texas Vein Institute, we have devoted our practice to vein treatment, including a number of minimally-invasive techniques.
Our doctors perform all procedures and carefully manage every aspect of your vein care. If you have lipodermatosclerosis, schedule a consultation in our state-of-the-art facility. After careful evaluation, we can recommend an individually-tailored treatment plan designed to achieve the most favorable patient outcome.