What is buffalo hump?
Buffalo hump refers to an unsightly lump of fat that develops at the top of the back between the shoulders. It can arise from a variety of conditions that are characterized by an increase in cortisol or glucocorticoid (hormones produced by the adrenal gland) levels in the bloodstream. The most common cause of elevated cortisol levels is the use of oral corticosteroid drugs, which are prescribed to treat different conditions, including inflammatory diseases.
Elevated cortisol levels can also occur when the body produces too much cortisol. The medical term for this condition is Cushing’s syndrome. Cushing’s disease is a specific form of Cushing’s syndrome in which a pituitary tumor produces elevated levels of a hormone that directs the adrenal glands to synthesize cortisol.
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In some cases, buffalo hump may occur with osteoporosis, which is characterized by thinning and weakening of the bones.
Buffalo hump on its own does not cause serious side effects, but it may result from a serious disorder such as a tumor of the pituitary or adrenal glands. Treatment for buffalo hump may not be necessary in itself unless the underlying reason for the buffalo hump is a disease that requires treatment. In this case, treatment is dependent on the cause and may include changes in diet or exercise, surgical treatment of underlying tumors, or hormonal therapy.
Buffalo hump may be a sign of a serious condition that causes your body to produce too much of the hormone cortisol. If you develop an unexplained hump behind your shoulders, seek prompt medical care.
If your buffalo hump is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.
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- Hump behind the shoulders. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003112.htm
- Cushing syndrome. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/cushingssyndrome.html
- Domino FJ (Ed.) Five Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013