adiposis dolorosa; Dercum’s disease; symptomatic swelling


Interprofessional Education | Medical Pathology | Medical Physiology | Medical Sciences | Pathological Conditions, Signs and Symptoms



Dercum’s disease, also known as adiposis dolorosa, is a rare syndrome characterized by the growth of multiple, and painful, subcutaneous adipose tissues that commonly present in the abdomen and extremities. The scientific community hypothesizes that Dercum’s disease is a combination of neurologic and endocrine disorders. Patients commonly describe it as chronic adipose pain, which manifests as sporadic painful flares throughout their history with the disease.

Case Presentation

We share the case of a 32-year-old woman who presented to the emergency department for an acute episode of left lower extremity pain and swelling associated with a previously diagnosed history of Dercum’s disease. The patient had similar events in the past, with her last episode being 3 months earlier. A diagnosis is based on clinical presentation, findings on imaging, and the exclusion of other diseases that are associated with lipomas. While there is no standard approach to treatment, healthcare professionals focus on pain management.


Dercum’s disease is a chronic debilitating disorder, with multiple types that are diagnosed through imaging. The treatment of Dercum’s disease is predicated on the patient’s symptoms and the effectiveness of medications that vary based on the patient’s needs.