A genetic condition makes this woman look decades older than she is

YouTube / Barcroft TV

Zara Hartshorn is often mistaken for a middle-aged woman, but she's only 16.

Zara, from Rotherham, has a rare genetic condition that has left her skin loose and wrinkly, and her teeth rotting.

She inherited the condition from her mum Tracey, who is 43, but is often assumed to be in her sixties.

When Tracey was a child, doctors said the cause of the loose skin on her face was due to a loss of fat cells, which is a symptom of the condition called lipodystrophy. The condition means the body has problems making, using and storing fat. She says, in a report by Barcroft TV, that she wasn’t warned about the fact her future children might also inherit the condition. Out of her seven children, three have lipodystrophy.

In the special report, Zara explains that between the ages of eight and 10 she experienced the “worst stages of my life with bullying”.

Zara recalls the start of new school year, when her teach mistook her for an adult:

I had a new geography teacher and I walked in and he passed me a lesson plan.

She says she worries about people asking her age, and not believing her.

I’m scared of someone asking how old I am, it terrifies me.

In the documentary, Zara and Tracey go to Texas for a consultation for plastic surgery - which Zara decides to go ahead with. But the condition also causes internal problems, with Zara also suffering from a heart murmur.

There's currently no cure for the condition.

Here's the full documentary:

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