A buffalo hump is a fat pad on the back of the neck between the shoulders. This hump, which also called a dorsocervical fat pad, is a symptom of several medical conditions. Among the causes of this condition are obesity and Cushing syndrome. Dorsocervical fat pad treatments are based on the illness that led to the creation of the hump.
A person who has a dorsocervical fat pad should make an appointment with his physician in order to determine the underlying cause of the buffalo hump. The physician will conduct a physical exam as well as ask about the person's medical history, such as what types of medication the person is taking. In addition, the doctor may request diagnostic tests. These tests might include blood or urine tests, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test of the head, or a computed tomography (CT) of the head or abdomen.
In addition to extreme obesity or Cushing syndrome, some medications prescribed for treating acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) can lead to a buffalo hump. Taking steroids over a long period of time can also result in a dorsocervical fat pad. Sometimes a curve in the back is not a buffalo hump. For example, the back curvature that can occur from osteoporosis doesn't have the fat content.
If the diagnosis is Cushing syndrome, other symptoms that the person may be experiencing include muscle weakness, facial flushing, and bone loss. This syndrome is caused by the body overproducing the hormone cortisol or because a person is taking too much corticosteroid medication. Treatments include slowly decreasing the amount of corticosteroid medication being consumed, radiation therapy, surgery, medication, or a combination of treatments. Cushing syndrome is potentially life threatening.
Protease inhibitors (PI) are drugs that are used to treat AIDS. PIs may affect the way that the body metabolizes and places fat in the body, resulting in fat abnormalities such as buffalo humps. The person's doctor may recommend changing to another type of AIDS medication or may recommend lowering the PI dosages. In some cases the physician may recommend staying on PIs at the current levels because PIs are working so well for the individual.
When a buffalo hump is caused by obesity, a physician may recommend lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes would include starting a low-fat diet and beginning a reasonable exercise program designed to slowly and safely lose weight. The size of the hump may start to reduce as the body loses fat overall.