The "Official" Medical Definition of Dercum's Disease

Most of the definitions of this disease that you find are poor. Here are some common ones:

First identified by Francis X. Dercum, in 1892, Dercum's Disease (also Dercum Disease or Adiposis Dolorosa) is described several ways in the literature. Here are two:

"A disease accompanied by painful localized fatty swellings and by various nerve lesions. It is usually seen in women and may cause death from pulmonary complications. (Dorland, 27th ed)."
[This definition is found in National Library of Medicine: IGM Metathesaurus Information]

Paraphrasing the National Organization of Rare Diseases (NORD):

"Dercum Disease is a rare disorder in which there are fatty deposits which apply pressure to the nerves, resulting in weakness and pain. This disorder usually occurs in obese or overweight females between the ages of 45 and 60. Various areas of the the body may swell for no apparent reason. The swelling may disappear without treatment, leaving hardened tissue or pendulous skin folds.
In some cases, affected individuals may also experience depression, lethargy (a lack of energy) and/or confusion. Dercum Disease is thought to be inherited in an autosomal dominant genetic manner."

It doesn't paint a very hopeful picture, does it?

A problem with these definitions is that they were created when the doctor finally realized that the patient had something wrong. Most of the people who end up with this disease do not start off obese!

A form of this disease, which affects the knees, is referred to Juxta-Articular Adiposis Dolorosa.
It should also be noted that the disease affects men (~16%), nonobese women, and women under 45. The doctors do not have a clue as to the mechanism of the disease!

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Last updated 18 Nov 2003

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