As mentioned previously, you will most likely see a variety of specialists during the diagnostic process. It is important that you prepare yourself physically and emotionally for this process so that it will be efficient, productive, and as painless as possible. It might at times become frustrating or seem fruitless, but you must remember that it is vitally important that your case be thoroughly evaluated. It would be foolish, dangerous, and unethical of your doctor to diagnose you with Dercum’s Disease without first ruling out other similar diseases and conditions. It is important that you remain calm, cooperative, and patient during this stage of the process. Your patience will be rewarded with personalized medical care from competent and sympathetic professionals.
To help prepare you for this process so that you feel comfortable and knowledgeable as you enter this stage, we have compiled a list of the specialists most patients will end up visiting. This is by no means a complete list, as your doctor may not find it necessary for you to visit each and every specialist listed here. Or, he or she may recommend a specialist not included here who may be better suited to addressing your needs. This list will however provide you with a broad, general picture of what to expect. They are listed below in alphabetical order.
Specialists help complete the diagnostic process
Dermatologists may be consulted for their expert opinion on the texture of the accumulated weight, the consistency of the skin in the affected areas, or in some rare cases, to evaluate any skin discoloration that may occur. Dermatologists are often quite familiar with other conditions similar to Dercum’s Disease, such as Madelungs Syndrome. They can also offer expert advice on possible consultations with Plastic Surgery. In many instances, patients have reported that Dermatologists are responsible for the actual diagnosis of Dercum’s Disease in their case.
These specialists are vital in the diagnostic process. The Endocrine system in which they specialize is closely related to weight and how it accumulates throughout the body. An Endocrinologist will offer valuable insight into the make-up of your fat accumulation and they will be able to order a myriad of tests to rule out a plethora of other potential diseases and conditions.
Any disease having to do with weight will at one point be evaluated from a gastroenterological perspective. In other words, is your digestive tract doing its job properly? Gastroenterologists are perfectly suited to helping answer that question.
Many primary care physicians have an additional specialty in Internal Medicine. They look at all illnesses from a slightly different point of view, one that can provide a more complete view of what could be going on. Some patients prefer to have an Internist serve as their primary care doctor, or rather, as a kind of manager who will oversee and coordinate all the views of the specialists you will see throughout the diagnostic process. Whatever you decide, make sure to go with a doctor who knows you and understands your concerns.
Francis Dercum himself was a Neurologist. It is generally wise to have a Neurologist investigate the headaches inherent with Dercum’s Disease, as well as the less common cognitive dysfunction. Both of these can be indicative of other conditions and should be taken seriously. Expect to be tested on your reflexes, motor ability, memory, and to follow fingers with your eyes. You may also be evaluated for migraines, tension headaches, and so on. Please remember, do not take this as a sign that they do not trust or respect your concerns about Dercum’s Disease. It is simply their duty to rule out other potential issues.
This is where your food diary will be vastly important. Needless to say, weight must always be evaluated from a digestive perspective. A Nutritionist will be expertly qualified to evaluate your diet and determine how it should be affecting your body. Expect some diet modifications – again, this is strictly to test how your body reacts to determine if the extra fat is indeed related to Dercum’s and not perhaps an adverse and unique reaction to a certain food or diet structure.
Nutritionists may also play a key role in your treatment. Work closely with them and they may be able help you formulate a diet that might help lessen your pain and/or improve the quality of your daily life.
Finding a reputable, board certified Plastic Surgeon is absolutely crucial. Much like Dermatologists, Plastic Surgeons are intimately familiar with how the body accumulates fat and how that fat should look and feel. They will be able to help pin point what’s normal fat and what could potentially be Dercum’s fat.
Plastic Surgeons will also become crucial in the treatment process if you and your doctor decide to proceed with Liposuction as a form of treatment for the most extreme forms of Dercum’s Disease.
As mentioned previously, you may not see all of these specialists, or you may see others not listed here. Whatever course of action you and your doctor decide to follow, it is important that you remain patient and cooperative. Although these specialists may not be familiar with Dercum’s Disease, they are educated professionals trained to look for conditions which may shed new light on your symptoms. Or, they may provide further insight into the likelihood of Dercum’s Disease and illustrate how best to proceed with treatment. Be patient and know that whatever comes of each visit to a specialist, you will be one step closer to understanding your body and what it needs.