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It is a well known fact within the medical community, both at the civilian level and around the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), that some diseases seem to manifest well after a veteran’s time in service.  For some diseases, the medical profession has a good grasp as to why they incubate, and others, it is unclear why the disease takes life after military service.


One disease that seems to be a major conundrum for many in the medical profession affects veterans at a rate five times more than in the civilian population.  And, yet, many veterans who file for this disease as service-connected get turned down.  There have been exceptions, but the approval rate for service-connection is very low.

Veterans who suffer from this disease suffer with pain, anxiety, embarrassment, and depression at an alarming rate.


Dercum's Disease is an extremely rare disorder characterized by multiple, painful growths consisting of fatty tissue (lipomas). These growths mainly occur on the trunk, the upper arms and upper legs and are found just below the skin (subcutaneously).   Sometimes, there is major pain associated with Dercum's Disease that can be severe and debilitating.












Current research seems to indicate that Dercum's Disease mainly occurs in adults over the age of 55, and more women are affected than men.


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other medical outlets follow research that indicates the exact cause of Dercum's Disease is unknown.


Symptoms of Dercum’s Disease

  • Painful growths consisting of fatty tissue (lipomas)
  • Often found just below the surface of the skin
  • Lipomas may be found in any part of the body
  • Typically found on the trunk, upper arms and upper legs


Other Problems That Accompany Dercum's Disease

  • Swelling
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Extreme stiffness
  • Bruise easily
  • Depression
  • Memory problems
  • Prone to infections
  • Dry eyes
  • Sleep problems
  • Heart problems












Known Causes of Dercum’s Disease
Medical literature indicates that Dercum’s Disease appears to occur spontaneously and for no apparent known reason.


Some medical literature has suggested that Dercum’s Disease may be an autoimmune disorder- a disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.


It looks as if some cases of Dercum’s Disease may run in families.

The overall consensus amongst medical scientists is that the exact cause of Dercum’s Disease is unknown.


Veterans Believe There Is A Link

Many veterans have come to the conclusion there is a strong correlation that Dercum’s Disease may be the result of:

  • Anthrax vaccinations
  • Working around JP4 & JP8 (jet fuel)
  • Involved with contaminated water on military installations


Who Is Affected By Dercum’s Disease

  • Females more often than males
  • Women between the ages of 45-65
  • People who are overweight
  • Veterans who served in Vietnam, Iraq & Afghanistan


Dercum’s Disease is underdiagnosed, making it difficult to determine its true frequency in the general population.












Dercum’s Disease Feedback From C & P Exam

From C & P Examiner: "We are going to opine that the lipoma that was removed in service was the beginning of the condition Dercums Disease (Adiposis Dolorosa) and that all of the lipomas are related."


Typical Rater Feedback
A noncompensable evaluation is warranted for asymptomatic multiple lipomas on the back, torso and upper extremities, A noncompensable evaluation is assigned unless there is: disfigurement; limitation of motion due to scarring; pain on examination of one or two scars; frequent loss of covering of skin over scars; or impairment of function.

Dercum's Disease

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Rodney Studer, 2/21/24
Tour in Iraq in 2004 timeframe. Also received the anthrax vaccine. I don't have as many as some of you but I have had one removed on my Chest and 1 removed on my back. I still have one on my lower back that I need removed. I am the only one in my family or anyone that I even know of that has them.


Theodore Zink, 4/14/22
I was on active duty 1992-96. 92 -94 Germany as a track vehicle mechanic. I was exposed to JP8 on an almost daily basis. Had two lipomas removed in 95. Transitioned to National Guard. Continued to get more lipomas. 2013-2014 deployed to AF. Noticed more lipomas and pain. About six months after coming home I had many more. I started to get the more painful ones cut out. Lots of pain from these lipomas. Physical and phycological stress caused them to more painful. I received a medical in 2019 because of this. VA gave me 30% for scars. To date I have had over 90 removed and still continue to get more. I need to schedule another surgery. If you have this I feel you Soldier. My advice is to limit strenuous physical activity like running, weight lifting, ect. I am pretty sure this causes more lipomas to grow. light to moderate activity is good but skip the 6 mile run and heavy free weights. Also avoid phycological stress this causes them to be more painful. Clean your diet up and maintain a healthy weight. Just my story and advice but everyone is different. And get used to Doctors having never heard of this disease, most will have to look it up and don't really understand this crap is painful. You'll find out once you get a bunch removed some are angio lipomas, meaning they have small veins running through them. These are the ones that will cause the most pain in my opinion. Get your lipomas removed through the VA so it is all documented in one spot. If your still in make sure your troops wear Personal Protective Equipment to limit exposure and adequate hand washing facilities are available. We did not have much of that in the field in the early 90's.


Chris Rogers, 3/24/22

I was Active Duty Army, multiple deployments. Received first Anthrax shot in 1996 and an altogether different type of Anthrax shot in 1997... Lipomas started developing in 1998, had a couple of painful ones removed while still on active duty. I now have dozens of them all over my torso, arms, and legs, some are rather painful.


Richard Donegan, 2/1/22

Joined the Air Force in 1966, assigned as a Security Policeman. Worked around aircraft first three years until my last year where I was posted to Tuy Hoa, Vietnam, where I was on the perimeter. I had my first lipoma removed in 1967 at Glasgow AFB, Glasgow, Montana. I've had over 50 removed since then, most on my trunk and arms. Have many more I ignore until they become too large and/or painful, and many almost in my arm pits that I ignore upon advice of my surgeon, because of proximity of nerves. I've never submitted a claim to the VA for these.


Patrick Sweeney, 1/30/22

I was a helicopter mechanic in Vietnam in 1969-70, working around and with JP4. I have lipomas on my chest, arms and legs. I have had, since Vietnam at least nine removed, and have at least 40 more. Too bad the VA ignores this!


Theodore Zink, 7/27/21

I was a track vehicle mechanic and was constantly exposed to JP8. I am sure this is what caused my condition. In 1994 I had two lipomas removed. Over the years I developed more. Went to Afghanistan 2013-2014. Within six months I had at least 30. To date I have had almost 100 removed. The VA has only compensated me for scars because there is not a specific diagnostic code. It is also the reason I was medically retired. If you have this disease I understand you. The pain can sometimes be extreme. I recommend that you reduce psychological and physical stress. The more exercise you do will also lead to more lipomas.


Xavier Lopez, 7/18/21

I came back from a deployment from Syria in 2018 and ever since I have had these lipomas grow on me like crazy. I have been seen for them on active duty.


Caroline Marples, 5/26/21

I have 5 members of my family that have durcums , 4 were in the military. One was my ex husband and our children , my son is the worst of them. My current husband has them, I have had a few which I am ex army. My husband ex reserves, my son ex navy, my ex husband ex army. My daughter has never been in military but has lumps everywhere. But, she is the product of two ex military. The VA needs to step up for this problem.  I also believe the shots we were given has something to do with it.


Robert Luzarraga, 5/5/21

I like many of you that have already commented, have the same issue and it developed after my first tour to Iraq. I'm the only one in my family with this issue and believe it has something to do with my service as well. VA has deferred my claim for service connection.


Xavier Lopez, 4/20/21
I served in Syria for 6 months and upon returning to Kuwait I noticed a large lump on my arm. Two years later I have issues remembering stuff, have multiple lipomas, and server arm pain. I am also very fatigued all the time. I think it had to do with exposure overseas.


Joyce B. St. Clare, 3/8/21

I feel for you . But I am not sure this is caused by your tours or vaccines. I have Dercum's disease. And I have never been in the military or to the countries you have been to. It appeared suddenly, at the age of fifty four. As you know, it causes horrid nerve pain, and embarrassment, an emotional factor is very involved. Chronic severe pain can cause emotional or mental involvement. I am wondering if there is something we are all exposed to in the states? Or some thing we all have in common. If anyone has more info they are willing to share  their experience, please write me at My father served WWII, thank you for your service. You all have done so much for us. God bless.


Allen Walsh, 2/25/21

I was an NBC instructor for 8 years in the Army and served in Iraq for 1 year. While I was there I developed a Lippmann that had to be surgically removed. A year later I started noticing more lipomas all over my body.


Joseph Keenan, 1/12/21

I have dozens if not 100s of these lipomas through my body.  Working with a Dercums specialist they found that my body is attacking itself and forming Lipomas and Fibrotic tissue.  Served numerous tours to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2016 and didn't have a single mass until returning from Afghanistan in 2014.  Numerous specialists believe this may be due to an exposure as they were able to rule out many other factors.  Still going through clinical trials and further work up while I am in the IDES process.


John Hurley, 11/21/20
I have > 100 of these and have since my early 20's. I have had several removed due to pain. My Father served in Viet nam and had documented exposure to AO. He also was stationed at Camp Lejeune during 1965-1966 when he wasn't in Vietnam for 17 months. I believe both of these are teratogenic and likely may have caused mine to develop. I am also a veteran myself. Any information on someone's claim of this and the possibility it is genetic would be appreciated.












Tim Rorabeck, 11/15/20

I have roughly 200 on my body and VA refuses to acknowledge. All grew once I got back from Iraq. Most have been small but have had 3 removed so far because of pain. I have multiple that give me pain or discomfort. Any ideas on what to do to get VA rating? I did not have a single lipoma before Iraq and now I'm covered.


Gregory Simpson, 10/28/20
I have lipomas on my trunk, legs and arms. I'm starting to have dizziness also. I may need medical attention asap.


Robert Minor, 1/19/20

I have lipomas all over my body, arms, legs, neck, back, chest and testicles.  VA ignors this been to VA hospital 3 times.


Adrian Perry, 12/30/19

I have had a growth like this at the base of my spine for about 5 years. I had one removed back in 1996, and it took about 6 weeks for the incision to heal and not keep getting infected. I am 70 now and the only one I have at my spine base, is still there but has started to shrink away in the last six months.