Here’s what you should know about lipodystrophy

There are multiple types of lipodystrophy; it can be inherited (genetic) or acquired. The inherited form of lipodystrophy can be congenital (present since birth) or may develop over a period during childhood. It may lead to loss of fat throughout the body or only in one area of the body. There are two main types of lipodystrophy: partial and generalized. Acquired generalized lipodystrophy is also known as Lawrence syndrome, and acquired partial lipodystrophy is also called as progressive lipodystrophy or Barraquer-Simons syndrome.

  • Partial or localized lipodystrophy: This form of lipodystrophy is not usually related to abnormal health. In this, only one area of the body is affected.
  • Generalized lipodystrophy: In this type of lipodystrophy, the fat tissue in the entire body is affected. When not diagnosed early, generalized lipodystrophy is mistaken for fat or weight gain.

Read on to know about the causes and symptoms of this disorder.

Genetic mutations inherited from one generation to the next is one of the possible causes of inherited lipodystrophy. The exact cause of lipodystrophy is not known. However, there are certain triggers that may lead to this disorder. These include infections such as pneumonia, hepatitis, infectious mononucleosis, and measles. Autoimmune diseases in which the immune system attacks the body may also trigger lipodystrophy. In certain cases, repeated injections in the same area or pressure applied to the same part of the body will also cause lipodystrophy. For instance, people who have diabetes tend to inject insulin daily in the same spot. Localized lipodystrophy is quite common in such cases. This is why it is recommended to often change the site of injection. In some cases, an injury may also lead to lipodystrophy.
Generalized lipodystrophy has been known to be caused by a deficiency in leptin. When the leptin levels drop, there are abnormalities in the body’s metabolism. This leads to the production of excess fat in the body.

One of the most significant symptoms of lipodystrophy is the loss of fat or abnormal distribution of fat. In the case of inherited or congenital lipodystrophy, the loss of fat makes the body appear abnormal. The symptoms become apparent in the first two years of life. Depending on whether it is localized or generalized lipodystrophy, the abnormalities can be observed over a specific area or all over the body.

Some of the common symptoms of congenital generalized lipodystrophy symptoms include a voracious appetite, accelerated linear growth, increased metabolic rate, advanced bone age, and a protruding belly. Additionally, the child may have highly developed muscles and early puberty (precocious sexual development). In some cases, there is mental retardation and the skin has dark velvety patches. Moreover, fat may deposit on organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. This often leads to health complications later in life. These may include insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, pancreatitis, high cholesterol, and heart diseases.

In the case of acquired generalized lipodystrophy, the signs and symptoms are similar to congenital lipodystrophy. However, they occur in children and adults who have been previously healthy. It has been observed that women are at a higher risk of getting lipodystrophy than men.