There’s nothing worse than knowing something isn’t right with your body, especially when professionals tell you that you’re fine.
What can you do? Apart from brush your health worries under the carpet.
For Claire Tickle, 38, whose legs have been gaining weight at an unnatural pace since her teens, this was a constant reality every time she visited her GP.
Aged 32, Claire finally discovered the reason behind her ballooning legs: a medical condition lipoedema, which is now having a severe effect on her life.
At the age of 16, Claire visited her GP after noticing that her legs were extremely swollen, so much so that they looked like they had elastic bands wrapped around each ankle.
The next seven years consisted of regular trips to the GP due to her legs’ increasing size. Each time she was palmed off with the same response, that she had “water retention” and should “try dieting”.
Taking advice from her doctors, Claire began dieting and noticed, startlingly, that while her torso would lose a lot of weight, her legs would keep on growing.
It was demoralising being constantly told to lose weight and Claire began to lose hope.
“I gave up in the end,” she told ITV’s This Morning. “I was told I was fat all the time.”
But at the age of 32, Claire finally received diagnosis for her condition after being referred to a dermatologist about some eczema on the back of her legs.
“As soon as I got my legs out for him to have a look at the eczema, he recognised straight away what was wrong with them,” she said.
What causes lipoedema?
Lipoedema is a chronic condition typically involving an abnormal build-up of fat cells in the legs, thighs and buttocks, according to the NHS.
Dr Nitin Shori, Medical Director of the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service, tells HuffPost Lifestyle: “It’s not certain what actually causes lipoedema, but it can often begin during a fluctuation of hormones – triggered by puberty, pregnancy or the menopause.
“For some, there appears to be a genetic link and it can tend to run in families.”
Dr Dawn Harper mentioned on ITV’s This Morning that lipoedema predominantly effects women and is surprisingly common, with one in eleven people being affected.
What’s it like to live with lipoedema?
“From the minute I get up, to the minute I go to bed, I’m in pain. Even when I’m sleeping I’m in pain,” Claire explained.
The mother of six-year-old Alfie continued: “It limits me immensely. I haven’t been able to do things that mums do and get on the floor and play, it’s just too painful. I can’t run around in a park with him, I can’t get on a bike.
“Alfie is great because he’s grown up with it,” she continued. “He’s so accepting of it. He knows I can’t do a lot of things and understands it.”
She also mentioned that she’s judged harshly because of her weight, with many people not realising that it’s a genuine medical condition.
“It knocks your confidence loads, because of your appearance.”
Is there a cure?
Sadly, there’s currently no cure for lipoedema. Claire’s hoping to qualify for a new type of liposuction that targets fatty tissues, which is currently being trialled.
When asked about the treatment’s potential, Claire added: “It would be absolutely amazing not to wake up in pain every day.”