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Buffalo Hump – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

What is Buffalo Hump?

Buffalo can be defined as the deposition of fats at the dorsal aspect of the neck. This is also termed as dorsocervical fat pad. However, not all of the curvatures behind the neck can be associated with the presence of buffalo hump. At times, this could mean a different thing. There are numerous conditions that can be associated with the development of buffalo hump. Some of the common causes include obesity, a medical condition called Cushing syndrome and even medications, especially those which are used for AIDS treatment. Soon as you have noticed some abnormal curvature behind the neck, do not have a second thought in consulting your doctor so as your condition can be further evaluated. Though, this may not be as common as other medical conditions, it is still essential that we learn something about the true nature of buffalo hump. Crucial stuffs with regard this condition will be further discussed in the next few paragraphs.

Buffalo Hump Symptoms

Again, buffalo hump is not in itself a medical condition rather just one of the possible symptoms of a certain disease. The symptoms that may be present along with buffalo hump formation would actually depend on the underlying cause. Aside from the presence of fatty deposits at the back of the neck which result to buffalo hump formation, other symptoms that may be present include:

  • Blood sugar elevation
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Excessive thirst
  • Swollen and reddening of the face
  • Polyuria or frequent urination
  • Elevated blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle
  • Weakness and easy fatigability

Buffalo Hump Causes

Though there seems to be several links for the development of buffalo hump, this can primarily be accounted from the excessive levels of cortisol. As discussed earlier in this article, the formation of hump at the back of the neck can be due to three things: obesity, Cushing syndrome and intake of certain drugs, specifically corticosteroid. More specifically, the previously mentioned etiologies lead to the development of buffalo hump because of the following circumstances:


Being obese greatly contributes to buffalo hump formation. When there is excessive fat in the body, this has the tendency to get deposited in the different parts of the body and the neck has no exception to that. Thus, buffalo hump results.

Cushing syndrome

People with Cushing syndrome are also likely to manifest buffalo hump, aside from the moon facie. Cushing syndrome occurs when there’s a tumor on the pituitary gland. Now the presence of tumor in the gland has a great tendency to wreak havoc in the body by producing excessive levels of cortisol and glucocorticoid, the hormones which are specifically produced by the adrenal glands. The rise in cortisol and glucocorticoid levels in the body would result to deposition of fats especially at the dorsal aspect of the neck.


Aside from the aforementioned conditions, intake of certain types of drugs also lead to the development of buffalo hump. The specific medications which are believed to cause buffalo hump formation include the use of AIDS medications (aprenavir, crixivan) and steroids (prednisone, hydrocortisone, cortisone). These medications have the tendency to raise the levels of circulating cortisol in the bloodstream leading to buffalo hump formation.

Adrenocortical carcinoma

The presence of malignant tumor in the adrenal gland may also cause buffalo hump still due to the production of excess cortisol.


It has also been stated that not all curves at the back of the neck can be considered a buffalo hump. An exception to that is a dorsocervical curvature which is caused by osteoporosis. This time, the curvature behind the neck is not due to excessive levels of cortisol but rather due to abnormal curvature of the bone, specifically the vertebral spine.

Buffalo Hump Diagnosis

Before running any form of tests, the doctor still has to carefully assess the patient through physical examination and obtaining the medical history which may give some hints on the underlying cause of the condition. The tests that may be undertaken to diagnose the underlying condition that may have lead to the development of buffalo hump include the following:

  • Complete Blood Count
  • Bone Mineral Density Test
  • Urine Cortisol Test
  • Dexamethasone Suppression Test
  • Visual Field Exam
  • Imaging test like bronchography, arteriography, CT scan, ultrasound and MRI

Buffalo Hump Treatment

Several treatment modalities may be involved when dealing with the probable causes of buffalo hump formation. So as to effectively deal with this condition, the affected individual has to undergo certain diet modifications. The hump can also be removed surgery and following the procedure, buffalo hump exercises and hormonal replacement therapy may be indicated.


Adhering to the proper diet would help control fat deposition especially at the back of the neck.

Curtailing the Intake of Certain Medications

When AIDS medications and steroids are the primary causes for the development of buffalo hump you may discuss with your doctor the possibility of lowering the dose of your medications so as to control the cortisol levels in the body. Your doctor may also switch you medications to another kind which does not cause cortisol levels to rise.


Another way to conquer buffalo hump development is through some exercise routines that would help tone the body and prevent development of dorsocervical fat. Your physical fitness instructor can help facilitate you perform these.


Doctors, especially those who are expert in the field, may also resort to surgery for the effective management of buffalo hump. Surgery is especially indicated to buffalo humps which have grown huge enough and seemingly resistant to conventional modes of treatment. Surgery specifically involves liposuction of the buffalo hump. This is considered to be one of the medical breakthroughs in the treatment against buffalo hump. This, however, is still being disputed until today because of the negative effects of the surgery especially to those people who suffer from HIV-AIDS.

Though the presence of buffalo hump seems to be a harmless condition, one still has to be cautious about it since this may also be primarily due to a life-threatening condition such as the presence of tumor in the pituitary gland or in the adrenal gland.

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