Dercum’s Disease Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Dercum’s disease is a rare condition. It is characterized by multiple, painful lipomas on the body. Lipomas occur mainly on upper arms, upper legs and on the trunk. Dercum’s disease was first described by Dr.Francis X. Dercum in 1888.It is an insidious and slow, progressive disease. Dercum’s disease is also known as adiposis dolorosa.

Dercum’s disease is seen in the people of age group between 35 to 50 years. Percentage of affected women is more than men. Women are usually affected with this ailment after menopause. Only 5% of the affected people are male.

Causes of Dercum’s Disease

Aetiology of Dercum’s disease is not known. Still it remains poorly understood disease. Likely causes could be mechanical pressure on nerves, adipose tissue dysfunction and nervous system dysfunction.

Signs of Dercum’s Disease

  • The most striking feature of Dercum’s disease is painful multiple Lipomas or fatty growths that occur on different parts of the body. They occur in the subcutaneous fat. They are of different size. The size of Lipoma could be ranging from rice grain to the growth which may weigh up to ten pounds.
  • Pain, which increases over the period of time. Increasing pain affects patient’s active and social life adversely.
  • Patient will be depressed due to worsening symptoms.
  • Obesity may be associated symptom in Dercum’s disease. But all patients are not obese.
  • Disfigurement of joints may occur.
  • Difficulty in walking, standing, climbing up and down the stairs is experienced due to muscle weakness and stiffness.
  • Patients affected with Dercum’s disease are easily bruised.
  • Neuropathy.
  • Headache.
  • Arrhythmia.
  • Brain fog resulting in poor memory, difficulty in concentration and confusion.
  • Debility.
  • Muscle weakness and stiffness.
  • Disturbed sleep may be due to constant pain.
  • Some patients may experience shortness of breath.
  • Flatulence and bloating after meals.
  • Patient may remain anxious due to progressive nature of the disease.

How to Diagnose Dercum’s Disease

There is no specific test to diagnose the condition. Detail medical history and physical examination helps doctor to come to a conclusion. Magnetic resonance imaging may help in diagnosis.

Is there any Treatment for Dercum’s Disease?

  • No cure has been found yet for Dercum’s disease.
  • Pain relievers may be given to combat pain.
  • Sometimes fatty deposits around joints are excised surgically.
  • Loving support from family members play crucial role in patient’s ability to cope with the disease.
  • If necessary comfort aid and mobility aid should be provided to the patient. Things like walking stick, gel cushions, gel mattresses may help patient to some extent.
  • Boost patient’s morale with positive thinking.
  • Help patient to lead stress free life.
  • Meditation and relaxation technique should be practiced to reduce pain. Positive auto-suggestion may be tried to combat illness.

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