Rare Diseases: Dercum’s Disease

Dercum’s Disease, or Adiposis Dolorosa, is rare and almost unknown condition that is characterized by the appearance of multiple and painful lipomas on the torso, upper arms and upper legs, just underneath the skin. The pain caused by Dercum’s disease in many cases can be severe, as the growths on the fatty tissue sometimes press on nearby nerves. It is a chronic condition with a tendency of becoming progressive. 

This disease affects mainly adults and, in the majority of cases, it affects women. The probabilities of women getting Dercum’s Disease increase if they are post menopausal, middle age and/or obese.  Although in recent studies, several of these factors might have been disproven, as there is a growing number of men suffering from Dercum’s disease, and a very recent study has determined that a vast majority of patients were exhibing these lipomas before reaching menopause. The lipomas tend to generate primarily on the trunk and regions on the extremities near the trunk. They can generate pain at times very severe and debilitating. 
Named after Dr. Francis Xavier Dercum, the doctor who originally described the disease in medical literature, Dercum Disease is still covered by a veil of uncertainty. Doctors, despite decades of research and constant studies, do still not know its causes and the mechanism of the disease. What it is known is that pressure on the nerves by the fatty tissue causes the pain and weakness on patients. There are some suspected causes for Dercum’s, at times it has been suggested that the use of corticosteroids, a disturbance of endocrine function, it has been suggested that it could be genetic, as this disease has run in some families and up until recently there has been some suggestions that this disease could be an autoimmune disorder. It should be pointed out that even though many studies and suspected causes are listed, there is still very few knowledge of the true causes of the disease.
At the time, there is no cure for Dercum’s disease, and the treatments available symptomatic, meaning that they are devised to treat the symptoms but not the disorder as a whole. The main recorded symptoms linked to Dercum’s are multiple nd painful fatty masses on the aforementioned areas, generalized obesity, weakness and constant fatigue and mental disturbances such as emotionalinstability, depression, epilepsy, confusion and dementia. 
However, despite few treatments, charity organizations  for this rare disease, such as www.globalgenes.com dedicated on patient advocacy and funding for the study of this disorder has proven extremely vital in the search for more information regarding Dercum’s disease and even eventually creating a “cure” for our future generations.