T17 2019/08/18 07:04:23.896773 GMT+0530
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This topic provides information about Dercum's disease.

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.

Additional Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Generalized weakness
  • A tendency to bruise easily.
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • 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.
  • Arthritis.
  • 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.

Standard Therapies


  • 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.

Affected Populations

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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