Clinical features and metabolic derangements in acquired generalized lipodystrophy: case reports and review of the literature

Medicine (Baltimore). 2003 Mar;82(2):129-46. doi: 10.1097/00005792-200303000-00007.


We present clinical descriptions, metabolic features, and patterns of body fat loss of 16 patients with acquired generalized lipodystrophy (AGL) seen by us over the last 10 years. In addition, we review 63 cases of AGL reported in the literature. Based on these data, we propose new diagnostic criteria for AGL, the essential criterion being selective loss of body fat from large regions of the body occurring after birth. We also propose a subclassification of AGL into 3 varieties, type 1, the panniculitis variety; type 2, the autoimmune disease variety; and type 3, the idiopathic variety, which affect nearly 25%, 25%, and 50% of patients, respectively. Most of the patients presented in childhood and adolescence. Females were affected approximately 3 times more than males. Subcutaneous fat loss was severe and usually affected the face, trunk, abdomen, and extremities. In some patients, fat loss also involved the palms and soles and intraabdominal region; however, the bone marrow and retroorbital fat were preserved in all patients. Clinically, patients may have voracious appetite, fatigue, and acanthosis nigricans. Hepatomegaly was common, mostly due to hepatic steatosis. Most AGL patients had fasting and/or postprandial hyperinsulinemia, diabetes mellitus, hypertriglyceridemia, and low serum levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, leptin, and adiponectin. Diabetes mellitus and hypertriglyceridemia were less prevalent in the panniculitis variety compared with the idiopathic and autoimmune varieties. The management of AGL includes cosmetic surgery for loss of fat. Severe hypertriglyceridemia should be treated with a very low-fat diet and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation from fish oils. Management of diabetes is difficult and may necessitate insulin therapy in large doses. Insulin sensitizers such as metformin and thiazolidinediones have been used, although their long-term efficacy and safety remain unknown. Subcutaneous administration of recombinant leptin in AGL patients with hypoleptinemia effectively improves hyperglycemia, hypertriglyceridemia, and hepatic steatosis. Leptin therapy, however, remains investigational. Fibrates alone or in combination with statins may be used to treat hypertriglyceridemia.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / diagnostic imaging
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue / surgery
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diabetes Complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Glucose Intolerance / etiology
  • Glucose Intolerance / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / drug therapy
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / etiology
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Leptin / therapeutic use
  • Lipodystrophy / diagnosis*
  • Lipodystrophy / metabolism*
  • Lipodystrophy / therapy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures
  • Radiography
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • Leptin