How Familial Partial Lipodystrophy Can Rob You of Your Self-Esteem

Familial partial lipodystrophy (FPL) is a rare genetic disorder that causes fat cells to die off. This makes people with this disorder suffer from the progressive loss of body fat.

At first glance, people may be tempted to think, “Oh, that can’t be bad! You’d be so skinny!”

But there’s a definite flip side to this condition. Despite what the weight-loss industry wants your to think, your body NEEDS some fat. And some fat, in the right places, is a good thing.

For people with familial partial lipodystrophy (FPL), they frequently have less subcutaneous (the fatty or tissue layer directly beneath the skin) in their arms, legs, and sometimes in the head and trunk area. On the other side of the coin, these patients may accumulate fat in other areas, such as the neck, face, and intra-abdominal regions.

The onset of FPL occurs during puberty. One of the more common complications is diabetes because the body isn’t breaking down sugars. In most cases, adipose tissue (a fancy word for fat) loss begins during puberty.

FPL can be associated with a variety of metabolic abnormalities. The extent of adipose tissue loss usually determines the severity of the associated metabolic complications.
These complications can include:
  • an inability to properly breakdown a simple sugar known as glucose (glucose intolerance),
  • elevated levels of triglycerides (fat) in the blood (hypertriglyceridemia),
  • and diabetes.
Additional findings can occur in some cases. Researchers have also identified six different subtypes of FPL.

It’s hard to understand a rare disease unless you or a loved one has that disease or disorder. A woman named Andra had made a YouTube video describing her journey. She was not diagnosed until she was 37 years old. Her story is heartbreaking in many ways, but her spirit and strength are inspiring.

Please take a few moments to watch her video as she helps raise awareness about this rare disease.


Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn is passionate about raising awareness of rare diseases and disorders and helping people connect with the resources that may ease their journey. Erica has been a caregiver, and is a patient, herself, so she completely relates to the rare disease community--on a deeply personal level.

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