London: Zara Hartshorn, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England is only 16. But, due to a rare genetic condition that has left her skin loose and wrinkly, and her teeth rotting, is often mistaken for a middle-aged woman.
Zara inherited the condition from her mother 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, indy100.com reported quoting Barcroft TV.
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 her life with bullying”.
Zara recalls the start of new school year, when her teacher 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 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.