Widespread painful nodules in a patient with rheumatoid arthritis
A 60-year-old woman affected by rheumatoid arthritis (RA) reported a 12-month history of progressive growth of multiple, painful and symmetrically distributed subcutaneous nodules affecting forearms, thighs and lower back. In the last months the size and the number of nodularities markedly increased, most recently with the appearance of a new lump every other week. These painful swellings had first appeared in the left forearm, with a single lesion progressively increasing in size, but later on similar lesions occurred in the other arm. On examination, multiple, tender and movable subcutaneous nodules with an increased consistency of sizes varying from 0.5–1.8cm were present on both forearms, thighs and lower back. The overlying skin did not show any abnormality but pain was evoked upon palpation with light pressure. The patient described the pain as burning, dull and persistent, slightly reduced during the night, ranging from 5 to 8/10 on a numeric rating scale in the last week. The histologic examination of a nodule of the left forearm showed only adipose tissue. Dercum’s disease (adiposis dolorosa) is a rare disorder of unknown etiology, first described in 1888, characterized by the development of multiple painful nodules of adipose tissue on the trunk and proximal parts of the extremities, most commonly affecting obese postmenopausal women.
Devis Benfaremo, Michele Maria Luchetti, Armando Gabrielli
Clinica Medica, Dipartimento di Scienze Cliniche e Molecolari, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy