Weber-Christian Disease

  • Medical Author:

    Dr. Alai is an actively practicing medical and surgical dermatologist in south Orange County, California. She has been a professor of dermatology and family medicine at the University of California, Irvine since 2000. She is U.S. board-certified in dermatology, a 10-year-certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, and Fellow of the American Society of Mohs Surgery.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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How is Weber-Christian disease diagnosed?

The diagnosis is made usually by taking a piece of tissue (biopsy) and examining it under a microscope. There is inflammation of the affected fatty lobules (central part of the fat) of body with increased numbers of white blood cells around the fat and sometimes degeneration or death of fat cells called necrosis.

Laboratory tests using a simple blood draw may be helpful as extra information to suggest inflammation when Weber-Christian disease is suspected. There is no single lab test that completely defines this diagnosis. Abnormal tests such as a highly elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate, also called "sed rate" or ESR, may be useful. Additionally, mildly elevated white blood cell count (WBC) on a complete blood cell count (CBC) may be found.

Normal lab tests, including serum and urine amylase and lipase, help to distinguish Weber-Christian from other diseases of the fat caused by pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). A normal alpha-1 antitrypsin level helps to differentiate Weber-Christian disease from a separate fatty inflammatory disease (panniculitis) caused by alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

What is the prognosis of Weber-Christian disease?

The prognosis or long-term outlook is very different for each patient with Weber-Christian disease and depends on the severity of organ involvement. Some patients have mild, intermittent, annoying symptoms, while in others Weber-Christian disease can be fatal. After several years of symptoms, Weber-Christian disease may go away permanently (remission).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/8/2015

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