Dercum’s Disease

A traditional lipoma consists of fat cells developed around connective tissues which shows up underneath the skin as a noticeable lump. Men and women are equally prone to developing lipomas across the body at any given time during their lives. The vast majority of these lipomas can be surgically removed by a medical or cosmetic physician and are frequently diagnosed as non-cancerous fatty tumors. Lipomas are not restricted to developing only on certain areas of the body and in some patients prove to be much faster growing than in others. When left to grow without attention or removal, lipomas can begin to be associated with symptoms such as swelling, tenderness or may even become integrated with underlying blood vessels. Beyond these symptoms, the dimensions of a lipoma may begin to interfere with an individual’s physical movement or cause distress regarding confidence.

While a single lipoma or two are considered common developments for an individual, in rare cases, patients begin to develop a large number of lipomas at once across the body. When this is the case, a patient may be suffering from an underlying condition known as Dercum’s Disease. While this diagnosis seems to be more common for women than men, it is not categorized as a gender-specific disease.

The Specifics Surrounding Dercum’s Disease

Dercum’s Disease was identified by Dr. Franxiz Xavier Dercum in 1888 during his time with the University of Pennsylvania. He was the first to notice and ultimately categorize the symptoms in patients into a diagnosis. The symptoms he noted included a collection of often painful lipomas developing across the body with a tendency to congregate on the upper legs, arms and across the torso.

When to Seek Care

The vast majority of patients that are diagnosed with Dercum’s Disease will see the condition progress over time. Lipomas that initially appear slowly will generally continue to develop more rapidly with time. For many patients, these lipomas can prove to be painful which becomes the primary reason an individual seeks the care of a physician. Pain with lipomas is often associated with swelling in and around the area as well. Other patients with Dercum’s Disease seek treatment in large part due to the insecurities they face regarding the physical appearance of this rare condition.

Possible Solutions

Today, Dercum’s Disease continues to be a condition that medical experts are studying closely and unfortunately, no known cure has yet been identified. To that end, there are a number of steps that patients can take to alleviate the symptoms associated with Dercum’s Disease as well as cosmetic interventions that can help with physical appearance of lumps and associated confidence issues. Many physicians recommend a strict diet and exercise routine to patients showing preliminary signs of developing Dercum’s Disease as it is believed that weight loss may have some positive effect on the progression of the condition. Those patients who are suffering from more severe cases of this disease will often have the larger lipomas removed as soon as possible to reduce associated swelling, pain and noticeable lumps across the skin. Some patients may find that liposuction proves to be an efficient route to helping to slow Dercum’s Disease or reduce the appearance of lumps. All of these solutions in combination can significantly help patients deal with the signs and symptoms of this rare disease which have been reported to include sleep disturbances, mobility issues, fatigue, cardiovascular functions, and gastrointestinal conditions.

Safety Considerations

Advancements in the world of medical and surgical treatments mean that patients looking to have lipomas removed, or those that require multiple removals with a diagnosis of Dercum’s Disease, can do so without undergoing large open surgical procedures. Physicians today are able to remove lipomas in an out-patient setting using local anesthetic exclusively. While patients may need to attend to stitches following the procedure, the risks associated with the use of general anesthesia or lengthy recovery periods in-hospital are eliminated entirely. Similarly, those patients that elect to combine lipoma removal with liposuction will find that tumescent approaches come with minimal recovery periods and don’t require the use of stitches, greatly reducing the risk of scarring.

Cost Considerations

As with all medical and cosmetic treatments, the cost of care varies between patients based on the severity of the case and the number of sessions required to achieve successful results. The team at the St. Louis Laser Lipo and Vein Center are here to walk patients through their financing and payment plan options in-clinic.

Contact us Today

There’s no reason to wait when you’re considering your options for treating Dercum’s Disease or the removal of lipomas. Contact Dr. Wright at the St. Louis Laser Vein Center today to learn more about our many services.