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Lipodystrophy from Insulin Injections

Lipodystrophy in Diabetes

What is lipodystrophy?

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recognize lipodystrophy as a condition characterized by regional or total loss of adipose tissues (fats) in 1 or more areas of the body. The disorder affects the breaking down or building up of fat below the skin surface, resulting in unwanted lumps or dents in the affected area. Lipodystrophy is a common complication of insulin therapy and is associated with repeated injections of insulin in the same area. The absence of fat tissue is also related to:

  • Insulin resistance;
  • Hypertriglyceridemia;
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NFAD);
  • Metabolic syndrome.

Daily injections of insulin tend to cause localized lipodystrophy in areas that receive frequent injections. This can be avoided by changing the injection site often. The deficiency in adipose tissues also leads to low levels of leptin. Leptin is a hormone secreted by adipose cells that regulates appetite and metabolism. Patients with leptin deficiency are prone to:

  • Hyperphagia (excessive hunger)
  • Ectopic lipid deposition
  • Insulin resistance

The main challenges associated with lipodystrophy are correcting metabolic dysfunction and insulin resistance.

Lipodystrophy treatment

There is currently no cure for the disorder and the effects of various treatment modalities vary from person to person. Available treatment plans are focused on managing metabolic abnormalities, as well as preventing complications and cosmetic problems. The use of jet injector for administering insulin has been reported to improve the areas with lipodystrophy and stop the progression of the condition.

Leptin replacement therapy – Long-term recombinant leptin therapy is effective in treating insulin resistance in patients with lipodystrophy. It is the only FDA-approved medication for patients with generalized lipodystrophy.

Cosmetic procedures – Cosmetic interventions are also being utilized to improve the appearance of patients affected with loss of fat tissues. Dermal fillers can be used to replace volume loss due to fat deficiency, while muscle grafts and other surgical procedures are useful in cases that do not respond to other minimally invasive cosmetic procedures.


Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.
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