04/16/2014 12:32 EDT | Updated 06/16/2014 05:59 EDT

The Disease That Causes Unusual Weight Gain in 17 Million Women

Often mistaken for obesity or unusual weight gain, one disease affects more than 17 million women nationwide, and most are unaware it's a disease at all.

Meet Jasna, a 43-year-old female from Utah who suddenly found herself gaining a significant amount of fat in her legs and thighs.

The bizarre thing was, Jasna ate right, exercised regularly and considered herself a fairly healthy person. But, the weight continued to pile on, and strangely, only in her legs. Feeling self-conscious about her unsightly appearance, Jasna was also in chronic pain as a result of bearing her increased weight.

After spending nearly $40,000 struggling to find the source of her problem, Jasna was finally diagnosed with lipedema, or lipoedema, a relatively unknown disease affecting much of our population.

Rarely talked about, this chronic disorder affects the legs and arms, causing an abnormal accumulation of fat cells, producing a noticeably disproportionate appearance. This not only causes emotional distress, but also is very painful, and potentially debilitating.

Lipedema strikes both thin and obese individuals alike, and generally no amount of diet or exercise can cease or prevent it. However, there's a progressive and somewhat controversial group of elite of plastic surgeons finding success for their patients through specialized liposuction.

Here is Jasna's story:

I was always an exceedingly happy and very active child. However, amidst the onset of puberty, I began to develop symptoms of what would later lead to decades of pain, misery, and immobility. I was one of the 11 percent of women worldwide suffering from lipoedema.

From the waist down, my skin's tissue was swelling and growing larger. As time went on and my condition worsened, exercise became impossibly painful. Eventually, it got to a point where I could no longer climb stairs without incredible difficulty, and simple, everyday tasks, such as sitting or standing for an extended period of time, only made matters worse. Because of this growing lack of mobility, my social life began to suffer as well. I could no longer enjoy lengthy lunches with my friends or participate in any sort of event or activity that required movement. Still, I had not seen the worst of it. During pre-menopause, my lipoedema rapidly spiralled out of control and I was soon faced with losing what little mobility I had left. Doctors explained I would most likely need to be on disability and be bound to a wheelchair for the remainder of my life.

For more than a decade, I searched for an answer, a cure, for the symptoms causing my life to slip away from me. Initially, doctors assumed the swelling in my legs was a result of fluid coming from my veins. I underwent five different surgeries in hopes of change, but in each case was left disappointed. Later, I was misdiagnosed with a condition called lymphedema, which is caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system. For nearly 10 years, I suffered through countless treatments and therapies, none of which could mollify my symptoms. Finally, I found a physician in Utah, who claimed to have a working therapy for lipoedema. Unfortunately, my insurance would not cover this treatment, so I was forced to pay out-of-pocket. In the end, I had spent more than $20,000 on treatments and machines that did not work. What's worse is many of the physicians I met had never even heard of lipoedema. For the plastic surgeons who did know something of the condition, they refused to perform any surgery due to its risky nature.

Finally, after ample research, I found Dr. David Amron, a lipo-sculpture specialist with more than 20 years experience in his field. When I finally met with him regarding my own struggle, his unprecedented knowledge, confidence, and expertise in treating my condition immediately restored my hope of one day living a normal life again. Using his anesthesia-free pure tumescent liposuction and unique technique, he put an end to my lipoedema symptoms once and for all. It was finally over.

It is hard to believe that after so many years of pain and struggle with lipoedema, my life would change 110 percent over the course of just a few weeks. Today, I am able to exercise at the gym again, something that would have been completely impossible only a year prior. I no longer experience the frequent pain or social upsets because of the condition, and for the first time in a long time, I am living the active, healthy life I always dreamed of. After decades of letdowns, it would have been easy to believe I was destined to a life in a wheelchair. However, I did not take "no" for an answer. I fought to find the right diagnosis, and after that, fought even harder to find the right surgeon. I am now able to at long last return to my active, happy self.

By Jasna Tursic

The Purple Fig is a community where women share personal and relatable stories; no ego, no shame, no judgement. We're about life, love and all of the stuff that makes us yearn, squirm, and giggle. These stories make up the authentic and intriguing journey of a woman.


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