Fatty Knees and Thighs

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Fatty thighs and knees may have plagued your legs for as long as you can remember. But, if it’s more of a recent predicament, the cause for extra fat can be linked to hormonal changes, like pregnancy or menopause. When the body stores a significant amount of fat in the legs, especially the thighs, the body becomes “pear-shaped,” which can cause it to look bottom-heavy.

Why it happens: “As women age, the body tends to hold more fat in select areas,” says Las Vegas plastic surgeon Tiffany McCormack, MD. “One area that is known to store fat is the inner and outer thighs—the female body is just programmed to put extra fat there,” she adds. Problem areas, like the thighs, contain large amounts of insulin receptors on the fat cells—the more receptors, the more of a trouble spot. Sometimes referred to as saddlebags, extra fat on the outer thighs can cause tight-fitting clothes to look as if they are cutting into you. On the flipside, when the inner thighs become fatty, they can rub together, causing discomfort, irritations and rashes.

The knees are another area where fat can accumulate, and, when there’s too much of it in the knees, the legs can look disproportionate, and the shape of the knees may appear distorted. Keeping at a constant weight, by exercising and following a proper diet, throughout the aging process is the best way to keep unwanted fat from settling in the legs, although there is a genetic tendency too.

How to fix it: While diet and exercise should always be your first line of defense when tackling fat—especially since the legs tend to respond well to this combination—there are more invasive options for when you need a little extra help. “Liposuction is still the gold standard for exercise-resistant areas such as the thighs,” says Dr. Tiffany McCormack. But, since the skin on the thighs tends to be thin, your doctor may recommend laser liposuction, which is believed to lend a tightening effect. Different than traditional liposuction, laser liposuction first suctions out the fat and also delivers a tiny wave of laser light to the dermis to stimulate collagen production to tighten up the skin over the next few months. Somewhat controversial, some experts feel that laser lipo can help to firm up the legs and thighs while others feel that it offers little or no skin-tightening benefit and more of a risk for complications. Because the skin is thinner on the inner thigh, there is the chance of permanent discoloration or burns with laser liposuction.

The knees can also be treated with liposuction to get rid of unnecessary fat with either an incision at the knee or the groin, which also addresses unwanted fat in thethighs and results in less swelling during recovery. “When it comes to the knees, liposuction acts more as a contouring procedure. But you have to be very careful since contour deformities can occur because there are not big pockets of fat like there in the thighs,” says Dr. Tiffany McCormack. When done right, liposuction to the knees can give good results and a barely visible scar. But you’ll need to wait at least a few weeks for the swelling to go down before the final results can be seen. “Since the knees are farther away from the heart, it takes longer for swelling to subside and to fully recover,” says San Francisco plastic surgeon Michael Kulick, MD.

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