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Jennifer Corson was eight years old when she first noticed something was not quite right with her body.

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Crystal Ellingsen had a similar revelation but figured it was just a quirk of her genetic makeup. As both Halifax women got older and went through puberty and developed into their adult bodies, their problems kept getting worse.

Corson was in her early twenties when she needed knee replacement surgery because of swelling and arthritis.

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Lipedema is a chronic medical condition that primarily affects women. Characterized by a build-up of adipose tissue, or fat, in the legs or arms, it's a common but under-recognized disorder that can cause pain, swelling, and easy bruising to those it affects. Because this fat tissue builds up unevenly, women impacted by lipedema typically have an average upper body but bigger legs. Since this is a condition that gets worse with time, in its early stages, it often gets written off as weight gain.

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But this is not regular fat, so diet and exercise alone do not get rid of lipedema. She was having a lot of pain in her sacrum, at the bottom of her spine, after giving birth to her first. At first, she wrote it off.

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She had her children in quick succession and noticed the swelling and the pain was getting worse. Although Ellingsen was feeling better after seeing a massage therapist, she knew something still was not right. Ellingsen kept going back to the doctor but felt like she was being written off because of her weight and a lack of knowledge.

That prompted her to take her health concerns into her own hands and do some research. That's how both Ellingsen and Corson figured out they have a disorder called lipedema, which affects one in 10 women.

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Both women eventually discovered The MLD Clinic in Halifax, which specializes in lymphatic therapy for the relief and management of swelling. Kempt recommends doing combined decongestive therapy to patients, which is a combination of manual lymphatic draining or lymphatic massage therapy and compression wrapping, to help reduce the symptoms.

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Although doing this treatment has not been an easy process, both Ellingsen and Corson are happy they did it. There have been times over the last year that Ellingsen admits she's wanted to give up because of the pain she's experienced with the treatment and the inconvenience of getting her compressions shipped to her from Germany as she cannot get them in Canada.

These compressions - worn like stockings - are something Ellingsen wears all day, every day, now and probably will for the rest of her life. But I hope that one day, I can get treatment because I have done all the prep work and then I will have the best I can possibly have because I have prepared my body the best I can. Older bigger women in Halifax had no real idea how traumatic that experience was going to be I try to stay positive but it's horrible.

In Canada, there is no real treatment. As to why people like Ellingsen and Corson are afflicted with lipedema, no conclusive reasons are known yet. However, Kemp points to a new study from Stanford School of Medicine which may be on the right path to giving people answers. This is a point that's important to both Ellingson and Corson: they both want people to understand they are not overweight but simply have a medical condition that is out of their control.

It's one of the many women's issues that needs to be brought to the forefront. And for people who are overweight, there is only one label. Start your Membership Now. Your home for the news shaping Canada's East Coast. Close Search. Subscribe now in My Log out.

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More Health Stories. Updated 13 minutes ago 6 min read Premium content.

One of the most little-understood chronic diseases: halifax women living with lipedema hope to raise awareness

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