The distressing condition that doctors dismiss as women being 'pear-shaped' trends now

The distressing condition that doctors dismiss as women being 'pear-shaped' trends now
The distressing condition that doctors dismiss as women being 'pear-shaped' trends now

The distressing condition that doctors dismiss as women being 'pear-shaped' trends now

Teresa Sanderson smiles wistfully as she looks at pictures of herself as a young girl — an 'elfin' six-year-old with slim legs. Yet within a matter of months, it would be a different story.

'Literally, in two pictures — one dated 1969, the other 1970 — you wouldn't tell I was the same person,' she says. 'My legs were suddenly huge.'

In the space of six months, she'd become a 'blob with tree-trunk legs'.

'The weight piled on even though I wasn't eating differently from my family,' says Teresa, now 60, a former civil servant who lives in Somerset. 'The worst weight was on my legs. My friends had spindly child legs but mine were enormous.'

This was not 'just' because she was overweight, as doctors kept telling her.

Teresa Sanderson , 60, has suffered from lipoedema since her teens. It's a painful condition where fat accumulates in the legs, causing legs to grow and grow

Teresa Sanderson , 60, has suffered from lipoedema since her teens. It's a painful condition where fat accumulates in the legs, causing legs to grow and grow

In fact, Teresa had lipoedema, where fat forms abnormal deposits under the skin, most usually around the thighs, causing a pronounced lumpy effect and significantly larger legs.

It can also lead to a disproportionate build-up of fat in other parts of the body — such as the knees, calves and upper arms. Nor is it weight-related, as people of a healthy weight can develop it too.

Last month, the Mail reported how the Brazilian model and influencer Luana Andrade died following liposuction to treat lipoedema that had appeared on her knees as a teenager.

The 29-year-old developed blood clots in her lungs and suffered a fatal cardiac arrest during the procedure. Her mother, Luciana, later said the condition had caused Luana physical discomfort and affected her work as a model.

It is not known exactly why lipoedema develops but people with the condition have an excess number of fat cells in affected areas, as well as a build-up of fluid in those cells. Affected areas tend to feel soft and doughy, may be more tender to the touch and bruise more easily.

Lipoedema is usually 'a progressive condition' — typically starting out as heavier, dimpled thighs in the teenage years (with a smaller upper body — sometimes described as a 'pear shape'), but becoming ever more pronounced over time.

Many women eventually become obese. 'Lipoedema restricts their mobility,' says Dr Dennis Wolf, an aesthetic doctor in London, who specialises in treating the condition. 'They can then become depressed and self-conscious, and it becomes a downward spiral.'

Lipoedema affects only women — an estimated 10 per cent of adult women in the UK are affected — and is associated with hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, the menopause or taking the Pill. Lipoedema also sometimes runs in families. Despite the numbers affected, many women have never heard of the condition and assume they are overweight or have cellulite. Likewise, say experts, many GPs are unfamiliar with the condition.

'Lipoedema has only been recognised in the medical profession in the past ten years or so,' says Dr Wolf. 'Women are often 'fobbed off', with GPs telling them 'You've just got fat legs' and 'Look at your mother — she's the same'.'

This was Teresa's experience.

Her condition worsened after the age of 16, when she comfort-ate to cope with the unexpected death of her mother.

'As a teenager, I was a size 12 top and a size 18 bottom,' she says. 'By my late 20s, I was a size 34 bottom.

'I reacted badly to insect bites, giving me saucer-size boils on my legs, which were aggravated by the friction of them rubbing together.

Last month, the Mail reported how the Brazilian model and influencer Luana Andrade died following liposuction to treat lipoedema that had appeared on her knees as a teenager

Last month, the Mail reported how the Brazilian model and influencer Luana Andrade died following liposuction to treat lipoedema that had

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