In Greek, lipo means "fat," dermato means "of skin," and sclerosis means "scarring." Lipodermatosclerosis is a condition where the skin and fat become inflamed and scarred. It can happen anywhere in the body where fat is located, but is most common on the lower legs and abdominal folds of persons with obesity. People who have lipodermatosclerosis are often middle-aged, overweight, and not very active.
In its acute form, the skin is hard, swollen, red, and tender to touch. The chronic form has similar symptoms, but the skin can become brownish-red in color. Small, white-scarred areas, varicose veins, and ulcers may also form, and the legs could exhibit an “inverted champagne bottle” contour.
The cause of lipodermatosclerosis is not well understood, though it is related to increased pressure in the veins due to obesity, an inactive lifestyle, and leaky valves in the blood vessels. When blood does not flow well, it pools in the veins due to gravity, and leaks out of the vessels. This build up of pressure leads to the release of inflammatory signals that lead to inflammation of the skin and the fat.
The most direct way of addressing lipodermatosclerosis is by correcting the pooling of the blood inside the veins. This can be done through compression therapy, weight loss, an increase in physical activity, and raising the legs when sitting down.
- Topical steroids for skin inflammation.
- Oral pentoxifylline to increase blood flow.
- Surgery to remove the affected veins that are swollen.
- Various lasers to destroy the affected veins.
- Sclerotherapy: the injection of chemicals to destroy and seal off the affected veins.
- The use of compression stocking or compression devices on the legs. Compression should only be performed after evaluation by a health professional to ensure that it is safe to use compression.