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Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy - Causes, Diagnosis and Treatments

Published on Mar 23, 2022 and last reviewed on Jun 30, 2022   -  5 min read


In acquired partial lipodystrophy, there is fat loss in certain parts of the body. This article attempts to provide you with in-depth knowledge of this condition.



Otherwise known as Barraquer-Simons syndrome or cephalothoracic lipodystrophy, acquired partial lipodystrophy (APL), as its name suggests, is an acquired condition, meaning that it develops at some point in life and it is not by birth. In this condition, there is a problem with the way the body stores and uses the fat. Barraquer, Simons, and Mitchell described this condition a century ago and named it lipodystrophia progressiva or Barraquer-Simons syndrome, which was later known as acquired partial lipodystrophy.

What Is Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy?

Lipodystrophy is the loss of adipose (fat) tissue. When this loss of subcutaneous fat tissue is not uniform in the body and is restricted to only certain regions, it is termed acquired partial lipodystrophy. Fat loss in APL is not intentional, meaning people do not practice specialized diets or workouts to lose fat; instead, it occurs on its own without any reason or effort. Also, in such people, ectopic fat in the liver and muscle tissues increases.

This lipodystrophy is symmetrical and bilateral, limited to the upper body with cephalometric progression and sparing the lower extremities. Some also use the term lipoatrophy instead of lipodystrophy interchangeably.

What Causes Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy?

How acquired partial lipodystrophy develops or what are the causes is not clearly understood but,

What Are the Clinical Features of Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy?

What Parts of the Body Does Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy Affect?

Loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue occurs in the following bodily sites:

Since the lower parts of the body are usually spared, after puberty in some women, there is excessive fat accumulation in the hips, thighs, and leg region.

What Other Conditions Co-Exist With Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy?

What Autoimmune Disorders Are Associated With Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy?

APL can also be associated with autoimmune disorders like,

In these conditions, APL usually follows these autoimmune conditions.

How Common Is Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy?

APL is a rare disorder. Only about 250 cases have been described until now, out of which a majority of them are of European descent. It has a female predilection, meaning females are affected three to four times more frequently than males.

How Is the Diagnosis of Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy Made?

How Can Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy Be Treated?


Acquired partial lipodystrophy can be mentally devastating to the child. As the child reaches adulthood, the disproportionate fat loss and accumulation become evident, which results in psychological discomfort and affects the quality of life. Affected individuals and their families are encouraged to seek psychological support. Regular follow-ups with concerned specialists will help prevent life-threatening complications.


Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Causes of Acquired Lipodystrophy?

The exact cause of acquired lipodystrophy is not yet known in medical science. But, few triggers such as infections, any autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own cells, or repeated pressure in the same spot of the body could cause acquired lipodystrophy.


How to Treat Lipodystrophy?

Making dietary changes and regular exercising can help reduce abdominal fat and help build muscles. In addition, liposuction and injectable facial fillers can help.


Is Lipodystrophy a Severe Condition?

Lipodystrophy is a progressive condition, and it may result in serious complications like fatty liver, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), kidney damage, and it can damage other vital organs as well.


What Are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Lipodystrophy?

Lipodystrophy is a rare progressive condition characterized by abnormal utilization of fats, and it is also associated with abnormal distribution and accumulation of excessive fats in the body. The common sign of lipodystrophy is excessive weight gain and insatiable appetite.


Is Lipodystrophy Curable?

Unfortunately, lipodystrophy currently has no cure. However, the progression and symptoms associated with lipodystrophy can be managed by proper treatments.


What Is Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy?

Acquired partial lipodystrophy is also called Barraquer-Simons syndrome. Acquired partial lipodystrophy is characterized by fat loss in the facial region, neck, shoulders, forearm, chest, and abdomen. It can also affect the thigh and groin region.


How to Know if I Have Lipodystrophy?

Lipodystrophy is a rare severe progressive disorder characterized by abnormal utilization and storage of fats in the body. One of the common signs of lipodystrophy is persistent hunger. If you experience an insatiable appetite and if you are always hungry, and if you experience abnormal weight gain, consult a doctor immediately.


Is Lipodystrophy an Autoimmune Disease?

Lipodystrophy is often associated with autoimmune diseases like pernicious anemia, lupus, and dermatomyositis.


Is Lipodystrophy a Hereditary Condition?

Familial partial lipodystrophy is hereditary, inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
30 Jun 2022  -  5 min read




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