Picture of HIV Lipodystrophy
HIV lipodystrophy is a change in body fat distribution that can occur in some people with HIV. In distinction to “lipoatrophy” (which describes local fat loss), lipodystrophy may refer to an accumulation of fat or the loss of fat. The cause of HIV lipodystrophy is currently unknown, but it may be due to the actual HIV infection or HIV medicines. Fat buildup can occur around the organs, on the back (buffalo hump shown above), in the breasts, in the face, in the arms, and under the skin. Loss of fat may occur in the face, limbs (legs and arms), or in the buttocks.
Older, white adults are at increased risk for developing HIV lipodystrophy. Men tend to have fat loss in the arms and legs, whereas women tend to have an accumulation of fat in the breasts or abdomen. HIV lipodystrophy may increase risk of heart attack and diabetes, as well as cause pain in the breasts, headaches, and problems with breathing. There is no cure for HIV lipodystrophy, but switching HIV medications may help.