Table of Contents

Dercum Disease

What is Dercum disease?

Dercum disease, which is also known as Adiposis Dolorosa, Anders’ syndrome, and Dercum-Vitaut syndrome, is a rare chronic and progressive condition that is characterized by multiple painful fatty tumors (lipomas) that are primarily located on the truck region and the upper arms and upper legs. These types of tumors usually occur subcutaneously in menopausal, obese women, although they can occur in males and/or people who are not obese. Because these tumors can press by nearby nerves, they often cause severe, debilitating pain that can last for hours, only occur at certain times, or be continuous and especially worse with movement.

What causes Dercum disease?

The cause of Dercum disease remains largely unknown, but crrent theories point to the following potential causes:
  • Corticosteroid use
  • Disturbance to the endocrine function
  • Genetic inheritance, as some cases have run in families following an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern
  • Autoimmune abnormalities

What are the symptoms of Dercum disease?

Dercum disease is associated with the following four cardinal symptoms:
  1. Multiple, painful, fatty masses
  2. Generalized obesity, usually in a menopausal age
  3. Weakness and fatigability
  4. Mental disturbances, such as emotional instability, depression, epilepsy, confusion, and/or dementia
In addition to these symptoms, Dercum disease can also cause early congestive heart failure, severe hypothyroidism, joint pain, tremors, bluish discoloration of the skin, high blood pressure, headaches, and/or nosebleeds.

How is Dercum disease diagnosed?

Dercum disease is diagnosed based on a detailed patient and family history, a thorough clinical evaluation, and an identification of the four cardinal symptoms that are associated with the disease. The surgical removal and subsequent biopsy of the affected tissue can confirm a diagnosis by confirming that the growths are lipomas.

What are the available treatments for Dercum disease?

Presently, there is no “cure” for Dercum disease available, so treatment is symptomatic and supportive. With this in mind, any of the following options may help a patient, depending on the specific case:
  • Weight reduction
  • Surgery for extremely painful lipomas
  • Pain medications
  • Liposuction

Where can I find more information on Dercum disease?

Dercum Disease Articles