NEW YORK -

Victoria Albano knows what some people think when they see her; that she just gave up on herself.

"All this working out and exercising and all this taking care of myself wasn't doing anything," Albano, 45, said.

When she was in her 30s, Albano noticed her arms, and especially her legs, were getting disproportionately bigger. No one knew why until a doctor treating her for an unrelated injury said the word lipedema, a genetic issue affecting the tissue in her limbs.

No one is sure what causes it, but doctors think female hormones play a role.

Dr. David Greuner, of the NYC Surgical Associates, knows how serious lipedema can get.

"Lipedema can get bad enough where the patient is basically bed bound," he said.

Greuner uses a new, liposuction-like procedure to remove the dysfunctional fat cells, making small incisions in the legs. Doctors can first flush the fat then suck it away while leaving the vessels intact.

"We can't remove all the lipedemanous fat. OK, it's not possible, but we can significantly decrease the burden," Greuner said.

Albano will have her surgery soon and is excited to have her life and her limbs back.

Once a patient has the lipedema surgery it will take about a year to 18 months to see the full effect of the slimming.

Doctors also said certain lymphedema patients who suffer swollen arms because of mastectomy may benefit from the procedure, as well.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary and an in-depth interview with the doctor