If you are living with HIV and lipodystrophy, you may also be living with Hard Belly (excess visceral abdominal fat). It is a different kind of fat that may need a specific kind of treatment. Excess visceral abdominal fat is a significant medical condition that can impact your health and quality of life.

Excess visceral abdominal fat is not like regular fat. Regular fat is soft and squishy and lies just below the surface of the skin. Excess visceral abdominal fat is a type of fat that lies deep in the abdominal (belly) area.

schematic

Hard Belly can have many different names. You may have heard your doctor use the terms excess visceral abdominal fat, visceral fat, visceral adipose tissue, or lipohypertrophy. No matter what it is called, it is a different kind of fat that may need a specific treatment.

Hard Belly can be mistaken for general weight gain.

Excess visceral abdominal fat is a significant medical condition that can impact your health and quality of life. Many people living with HIV are affected by excess visceral abdominal fat, and it can occur even with newer antiretroviral therapies.

Hard Belly (excess visceral abdominal fat) is hard in more ways than one

If you have excess visceral abdominal fat:

  1. It can affect you physically. You may find it hard to perform certain daily activities.
  2. The changing size and shape of your belly can make you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious.
  3. It may be associated with fat accumulation in or around organs, such as the liver, and in the muscles.
  4. Recent studies demonstrated a link between excess visceral abdominal fat and serious health issues, such as CV disease, high blood pressure, depression, renal disease, sleep apnea, fatty liver disease, and acid reflux. It is not known if reducing excess visceral abdominal fat will have an impact on those issues.

Checking for Hard Belly (excess visceral abdominal fat)

Ask your doctor to check you for excess visceral abdominal fat. There are a few simple ways to do this:

  • Feel your belly for hardness or firmness
  • Measure your waist and hips circumference
  • Calculate your waist-to-hip ratio
check for hard belly

How to measure

Waist: Measure at the belly button. Make sure the tape is horizontal to the floor and around the waist.

Hips: Measure at the widest portion of the buttocks. Make sure the tape is horizontal to the floor.

Waist-to-hip ratio = waist circumference ÷ hip circumference

how to measure
how much is too much

What you can do if you have Hard Belly (excess visceral abdominal fat)

The good news is, you don’t just have to accept excess visceral abdominal fat. There is a treatment to reduce excess visceral abdominal fat in patients living with HIV and lipodystrophy available that your doctor can tell you about. This treatment for excess visceral abdominal fat is not approved for the health conditions associated with excess visceral abdominal fat. If you need to find a specialist who understands excess visceral abdominal fat and will listen to you, we can help.