What had happened to this woman?
January 18, 2007 4:26 PM   Subscribe

I saw an shockingly disfigured woman today. Every inch of her exposed skin was covered by red-raw lumps - face, hands and scalp. It was like she was covered in a thousand ticks. What was her condition?

It was funny how, although it's so cliche to say it, just seeing her had the instant effect of reframing any personal self-consciousness or physical hangups as so ridiculously insignificant compared to what some people have to bear. She was walking down the high street chatting and laughing on her mobile, while everyone stared agape. What I wondered was - how does a body get to look like that?
posted by 6am to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Paragon at 4:32 PM on January 18, 2007

No, ichthyosis would look like fish scales. This sounds like it might be neurofibromatosis -- but an extreme case of it.
posted by lleachie at 4:35 PM on January 18, 2007

posted by murphy slaw at 4:42 PM on January 18, 2007

Neurofibromatosis looks similar, however this womans (lesions? lumps?) were all a similar size: around 3/4 centimetre in diameter and very densely packed.
posted by 6am at 4:44 PM on January 18, 2007

Chicken pox?
posted by Netzapper at 4:49 PM on January 18, 2007

I was just about to say what Netzapper beat me to: that sounds pretty much like what I looked like when I caught chickenpox in my mid-twenties. I had head-to-toe pustules, and my doctor announced me non-contagious long before they fully healed. I had perhaps a month out in public looking like an augur of the apocolypse. Good times.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:24 PM on January 18, 2007

Hopefully it didn't look like this
posted by Osmanthus at 5:27 PM on January 18, 2007

Wild guess: Karposi Sarcoma. It can appear anywhere on the body and, if wikipedia is to be believed, inside as well. It can also be painless.

The article only has one gross picture but I've seen it on skin as just big brown spots.
posted by chairface at 5:32 PM on January 18, 2007

It did look like that, only with a lot more pustules. But I suspect it probably wasn't smallpox...
posted by 6am at 6:15 PM on January 18, 2007

If you're at all freaked out from looking at grim pictures, I present: the antidote!
posted by 6am at 6:21 PM on January 18, 2007 [7 favorites]

Sounds like it might be Psoriasis
posted by mattly at 6:52 PM on January 18, 2007

I second Psoriasis. My grandmother had it and it sounds similar to what you are describing. When she was alive, she even went to faith healers to see if a miracle could cure her. She would rub ointment on her skin and sleep wrapped up in Seran wrap. Now there is an injection you can take which works wonders.
posted by HotPatatta at 7:15 PM on January 18, 2007

Could've been bullous pemphigus. Link goes to Google image search page; not for the squeamish.

Neurofibromas aren't usually red or excoriated unless the person's been scratching them.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:15 PM on January 18, 2007

6am, this won't get you any closer to the answer, but ... do you happen to live in Brooklyn? I and several of my friends have seen a woman that fits your description, and who'se looks were so affecting that I couldn't stop thinking about her, and led us to sitting around a table telling about the time we saw her.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:31 PM on January 18, 2007

I have psoriasis and generally it doesn't really present as lumps. It's thickened skin patches.

I hope you weren't one of those staring agape. Because of my condition I get stares and remarks when I wear bare legs in the summer, and it's extremely hurtful. In fact I typically don't wear bare legs for that reason. I have learned to deal with short sleeves. I'm lucky I never seem to get much under my face, just around my nose when I get a cold, and around my hairline. Anyway, this woman's problem sounds a lot more severe than mine so I can only imagine the way people are treating her and thinking of her. (Like a freak.)

HotPatatta: there are numerous medications for injection but none are a miracle cure. Everyone is different. I've been on one for 5 weeks and nothing yet.
posted by loiseau at 10:02 PM on January 18, 2007

Oh, and I meant to say, the biologics (the injectable psoriasis medications) are immunosuppressants... have to carefully balance risk with reward.
posted by loiseau at 10:03 PM on January 18, 2007

Bookhouse - I think I've seen the same woman!

Her entire face was covered with the things. When I first saw her, I thought she was wearing a mask. Then I had to look back - and I saw that she wasn't.

To be perfectly honest, if I had this condition, I'd probably wear a veil or something. It would drive me totally nutso to have everybody looking at me like that.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:41 PM on January 18, 2007

I'm tipping this will turn out to be some form of body modification :-)
posted by flabdablet at 12:25 AM on January 19, 2007

I hope you weren't one of those staring agape.

I couldn't help but look, but I made sure she didn't notice me. I don't know if that puts me on morally superior ground. At work at the mo, I'll have a look at the pemphigus link later.

(This was outside London - not Brooklyn sorry)
posted by 6am at 2:29 AM on January 19, 2007

I'll also chime in and guess that it was a severe case of psoriasis. There are different "presentations" of psoriasis, some are more "lumpy" than others.

Having moderate psoriasis myself (35% coverage), I have definitely dealt with my share of "stares agape", freaked out children, and less than enthusiastic dates. However, having had the condition for over ten years now, I've become used to it, and the cosmetic aspect and stares don't bother me *too* much. On the plus side, a cosmetic skin condition opens up all sorts of bus and airplane seats (especially if you ham it up with a few scratches and coughs :), and acts as an active asshole filter. And though it hasn't ever attracted any women to me, I certainly haven't found myself lacking quality relationships with nookie aplenty. Life goes on, and I'm glad that it's primarily a cosmetic disease.

loiseau: I'm on an injectible biologic called "enbrel". On its own, it helped a decent amount - but coupled with "Clobex" spray, it has helped tremendously, especially on my hands and legs. The Clobex shampoo cleared my scalp over a year ago and I haven't had a problem there since then. Over the years, I've tried nearly every Western and Eastern approach, but apparently the ovary juice of genetically modified chinese hamsters (Enbrel) with a mostly alcohol spray has been a winner for me. Don't stop trying new things.

Coincidentally, the Enbrel took about 8 weeks for noticeable effects to kick in, and though I get a little sniffly a bit more often, I haven't suffered any sort of remotely significant effects from the immuno-suppresent aspect of the injections. The worst part is giving myself a shot every week [shudder].
posted by terpia at 10:35 AM on January 19, 2007

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