What is Dercum’s Disease
- Dercum's disease is an extremely rare disorder characterized by multiple, painful growths consisting of fatty tissue (lipomas).
- These growths mainly occur on the trunk, the upper arms and upper legs and are found just below the skin subcutaneously.
- Pain associated with Dercum's disease can often be severe.
- Pain may be caused by these growths pressing on nearby nerves.
- Dercum's disease mainly occurs in adults and more women than men. In some cases, individuals may also experience weight gain, depression, lethargy, and/or confusion.
- The exact cause of Dercum's disease is unknown.
Synonyms of Dercum's Disease
- Adiposis Dolorosa
- Fatty Tissue Rheumatism
- Juxta-Articular Adiposis Dolorosa
- Lipomatosis Dolorosa Morbus Dercum's
- The characteristic finding of Dercum's disease is the slow formation of multiple, painful growths consisting of fatty tissue (lipomas) that are found just below the surface of the skin.
- Pain may vary from mild discomfort when a growth is pressed or touched to severe pain that is disproportionate to the physical findings.
- Pain can last for hours and may come and go or last continuously.
- In severe cases, pain may worsen with movement. The exact reason for pain associated with Dercum's disease is unknown, but may occur because the lipomas press on nearby nerves.
- Lipomas may be found in any part of the body, although they are rare in the head and neck.
- The trunk, upper arms and upper legs are most often affected.
- Some individuals with Dercum's may experience swelling of various areas of the body, especially the hands.
- Swelling occurs for no apparent reason and often disappears without treatment.
- Significant weight gain is a common occurrence for most individuals affected by Dercum's disease.
- Generalized weakness
- A tendency to bruise easily.
- Stiffness after resting, especially in the morning.
- An association with bouts of depression, memory or concentration problems.
- Susceptibility to infection has been noted in some cases.
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
- Congestive heart failure
- Sleep disorders
- Dry eyes
- Myxedema (a condition due to an underactive thyroid that is characterized by dry skin, swelling around the lips and nose, and mental deterioration.)
- The exact cause of Dercum's disease is unknown. In most cases, Dercum's disease appears to occur spontaneously for no apparent reason (sporadic).
- Some have suggested that Dercum's disease may be an autoimmune disorder- a disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.
- Disturbances in endocrine function and improper breakdown (metabolism) of fat have also been proposed as potentially playing a role in the development of this disorder.
- A diagnosis of Dercum's disease is suspected based on a detailed patient history, a thorough clinical evaluation and identification of characteristic multiple fatty growths.
- Surgical removal and microscopic study (biopsy) of affect tissue confirms that these growths are lipomas.
- Specific treatment exists for Dercum's disease. Treatment is directed toward the specific symptoms that are apparent in each individual and is primarily focus on easing the characteristic painful episodes.
- Various painkillers (analgesics) have been tried with limited effectiveness. Injections of corticosteroids have also been used to treat individuals with Dercum's disease.
- Surgical excision of fatty tissue deposits around joints may temporarily relieve symptoms although recurrences often develop.
- Liposuction has been used as a supportive treatment for some individuals with Dercum's disease and may provide an initial reduction in pain and improvement in quality of life.
- Psychotherapy and consultation with pain management specialists may be helpful for enabling affected individuals to cope with long-term intense pain.
Dercum's disease affects females more often than males with some reports citing the disease is as 20 times more common in women.
- Dercum's disease can affect individuals of any age.
- The majority of cases are women between the ages of 45-60, especially overweight, postmenopausal women.
- Although an extremely rare occurrence, it has been reported in children.
Source: Ms Sruthi, Volunteer
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