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Lipodystrophy Symptoms and Treatment


What is it?

Lipodystrophy is a disease characterized by accumulation and / or loss of adipose tissue.

This pathology refers to changes in the body and develops especially in patients infected with HIV (Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus). Lipodystrophy can be defined by an accumulation of adipose tissue (fat) or on the contrary, by a loss of this type of tissue.

These accumulations or loss of adipose tissue may involve a number of body parts.
The accumulations are mainly:
– at the level of the abdomen;
– behind the neck, between the shoulders;
– at the level of the chest;
– on the face;
– just below the upper surface of the skin, creating lipomas.

Adipose tissue losses, for their part, are mainly localized;
– in the arms and legs;
– at the buttocks;
– at the level of the face.

An individual affected by the disease may experience loss or accumulation of these fats, or both, at different levels of the body.

Much research has put forward the hypothesis of a link between the taking of certain drugs (especially in the treatment of AIDS) and the development of lipodystrophy.
Adipose tissue loss is usually associated with the use of drugs of the class of nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors used in triple therapy for HIV infection.
The gains in body fat are, for their part, more caused by the use of protease inhibitors, non-nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors or integrase inhibitors.

In addition, other causes of the disease have also been investigated, including infections, immune system disorders, etc.

Adipose tissue accumulation in the abdominal cavity may increase the risk of heart attacks or diabetes. In the chest, it can cause severe pain, or headaches, or breathing problems.

Symptoms of Lipodystrophy

Lipodystrophy affects many parts of the body, which can vary depending on the accumulation of adipose tissue, or the reverse of its decrease.

Nevertheless, the loss of fat can be focused, especially if it is related to panniculitis (inflammation of the upper part of the skin surface).

Associated symptoms can be defined through:
– a voracious appetite;
– an acceleration of growth in children or adolescents;
– an acanthosis nigricans (cutaneous anomaly);
– polycystic ovary syndrome;
– risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Biologically, hyperinsulinemia (abnormally high levels of insulin in the blood) is usually observed. This is often the subject of development of insulin-resistant diabetes.
Proteinuria (presence of protein in the urine) has also been reported in the biological characteristics of the disease.

The origins of the disease

The exact cause of the development of lipodystrophy is, to date, between unknown.
Research has investigated a potential link between HIV infection, including the use of drugs to treat HIV and the development of the disease.

New drugs in the treatment of AIDS can limit the development of lipodystrophy than older drugs, more commonly used.

Risk factors for Lipodystrophy

Risk factors related to the development of lipodystrophy come into account, this is the case of:
– age: the older the individual, the greater the risk of developing the pathology;
– skin color: white populations are at higher risk of developing the disease;
– sex: men are more likely to have loss of fat in the legs and arms. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to have adipose tissue build up in the chest and abdomen;
– the level of severity of HIV infection: the more severe the infection, the greater the risk of developing lipodystrophy.

Prevention and treatment of Lipodystrophy

Today there is no cure for the disease. Much research is focused on determining the exact causes of lipodystrophy.

Nevertheless, it has also been shown that changes in some drugs in the treatment of HIV infection in AIDS patients may help in the positive course of the disease. These therapeutic changes must be effective exclusively on the advice of the doctor.

Liposuction (removal of adipose tissue by surgery) is sometimes used to reduce fat accumulation at certain levels. This means, however, is not used in the context of a fat accumulation in the abdomen, which can cause damage to nearby organs.

The injection of fat substances can be effective in the context of a loss of fat in the cheeks, eyes and mouth.

Medications can help reduce the effects of lipodystrophy. This is particularly the case of tesamorelin, allowing the reduction of the accumulation of abdominal fat.

Finally, an adapted diet, a good lifestyle and daily physical exercises can reduce the accumulation of fat mass in different places.

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