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What Is Lipodermatosclerosis?

By Andy Josiah
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Lipodermatosclerosis, sometimes abbreviated as LDS, is a medical condition that involves thickening of the skin at the lower leg brought about by a long period of venous pressure, or pressure from the veins. The term actually means “scarring of the skin and fat,” and it is generally described as a skin and connective tissue disease. Other terms for LDS include sclerosing panniculitis, stasis panniculitis, hypodermitis sclerodermiformis and chronic panniculitis with lipomembranous changes.

The category of diseases that lipodermatosclerosis belongs to is panniculitis, which is characterized by the inflammation of the panniculus adiposus, or subcutaneous adipose tissue. This is the layer of fat found under the epidermis, which is the outer layer of the skin. Lipodermatosclerosis affects the body’s lower extremities, particularly the skin above the ankles.

Medical researchers have yet to fully pin down the exact cause of lipodermatosclerosis. Some link its occurrence to obesity, as the accumulation of fat could apply added pressure to the veins. Venous hypertension, or high blood pressure in the veins, has also been presented as a possible cause. With venous hypertension, fibrin, which is a fibrous protein that contributes to blood clotting, spreads out from the capillaries.

It's possible that the diffusion of fibrin causes tissue to ulcerate, and in more extreme cases, experience necrosis, or premature cellular death. Some scientists have noted that people suffering from chronic ulceration and fat necrosis have lower legs resembling the shape of inverted Coca-Cola bottles. This makes venous hypertension one of the stronger possible explanations for lipodermatosclerosis. LDS is believed to occur most commonly in middle-aged women.

The first symptom that patients with lipodermatosclerosis typically experience is pain. Then the skin above the ankles begins to thin out, until the leg takes the inverted Coca-Cola bottle form. LDS patients should also expect the affected skin to assume a brownish-red color.

Left untreated, lipodermatosclerosis can lead to a chronic venous leg ulcer. This is very difficult to heal, particularly when treatment is put off. It also severely limits a person’s ability to walk or run, and can adversely affect his overall health. Upon the initial signs of LDS, a person should go to a vascular surgical clinic immediately. Lipodermatosclerosis is usually treated with compressive stockings to increase blood circulation in the veins. More extreme cases usually involve the use of Stanozolol, which halts the blood clotting action of fibrin.

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