Lipodystrophy is a medical condition characterized by abnormal or degenerative conditions of the body’s adipose tissue. (”Lipo” is Greek for “fat” and “dystrophy” is Greek for “abnormal or degenerative condition”.) A more specific term, lipoatrophy is used when describing the loss of fat from one area (usually the face). This condition is also characterized by a lack of circulating leptin which may lead to osteosclerosis.
Zara Hartshorn has been robbed of her childhood. Her mom took her out of school because the bullying was so bad. A bus driver laughed in her face recently when she tried to pay the child’s fare. Strangers stare and point in the street. Kids call her “grandma,” “monkey” and “baggy face.”
Zara is 13 but has a rare genetic condition that makes her look much, much older than her years. She has the face of a grown woman, gaunt and wrinkled. But she’s a frightened teen inside.
“It feels like people are looking down their noses at me and staring,” she said at her home in northern England. “You know when you get that feeling you’re being watched? I feel that everywhere I go.”
Zara’s mother, Tracey Pollard, feels her pain: She, too, was born with lipodystrophy.
Pollard, 41, noticed the tell-tale signs in Zara’s face at birth. “I was grieving for a child that’s got to go through the same things in life that I’ve had to go through,” she said. “I was angry at myself for actually having Zara.”