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Am J Med. 2000 Feb;108(2):143-52.


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Department of Internal Medicine and the Center for Human Nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas 75235-9052, USA.


The lipodystrophies are rare disorders characterized by selective but variable loss of adipose tissue. Metabolic complications, such as insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, hypertriglyceridemia, and fatty liver, increase in severity with the extent of fat loss. The lipodystrophies can be classified into two major types: familial and acquired. The main subtypes of familial lipodystrophies are congenital generalized lipodystrophy, an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by near complete lack of metabolically active adipose tissue from birth, and familial partial lipodystrophy, Dunnigan type, an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by loss of subcutaneous fat from the extremities at puberty and excess fat accumulation in the face and neck. Recently, a gene for congenital generalized lipodystrophy was localized to chromosome 9q34, and a gene for familial partial lipodystrophy, Dunnigan type, to chromosome 1q21-22; the genes, however, remain to be identified. Patients with acquired generalized lipodystrophy have generalized loss of subcutaneous fat, but those with acquired partial lipodystrophy have fat loss limited to the face, trunk, and upper extremities. Both varieties occur approximately three times more often in women, begin during childhood, and have underlying autoimmunity. Patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who are receiving therapy that includes HIV-1 protease inhibitors have been reported to develop a lipodystrophy characterized by loss of subcutaneous fat from the extremities and face but excess fat deposition in the neck and trunk. Localized lipodystrophies can be caused by drugs, pressure, panniculitis, or unknown mechanisms. Current management of patients includes cosmetic surgery, diet, and drug therapy for control of diabetes and dyslipidemia.

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