He Noticed a Startling Growth Behind His Ears…Years Later Doctors Diagnosed Him With This Rare Condition
Hong Shu was just 43 years old when he noticed a startling growth behind his ears. Over the next 10 years, the bumps continued to grow on his neck, throat and ears. Shu, who lives in Guangzhou in southern China, had struggled with alcoholism for years but didn’t realize that the alcohol was responsible for the growths until the doctors diagnosed him with a rare condition known as Madelung’s disease.
Madelung’s disease is a disorder that affects the metabolism of fat in the body. The disease causes fatty tumors to develop in a symmetrical pattern along the neck, upper arms, upper trunk and shoulders. Though the rest of the body may be lean, the fatty tumors will continue to grow over the space of several years. Fortunately, the tumors are not malignant and don’t cause any harm to the body. Because they are unsightly, however, many people feel uncomfortable with the disorder.
In Shu’s case, the tumors in his neck grew to be more than five inches wide and six inches in length. The tumors in his neck grew to be more than seven inches wide, causing him discomfort and embarrassment. More than three surgeries were necessary in order to remove the growths.
Male alcoholics are most likely to develop Madelung’s disease and account for over 90 percent of cases. Women and men who don’t drink alcohol can also be affected by the disorder, however. It typically occurs in individuals between the ages of 30 and 70. Impaired functioning of the nerves in the legs and arms, also known as peripheral neuropathy, often accompanies Madelung’s disease. Researchers aren’t sure if the correlation occurs due to the disease or due to the long-term effects that alcohol has on the body.