The New Paper
MARYLAND – Instead of hair follicles, Ms Shanyna Isom has fingernails growing out of her skin.
The woman has an unidentified illness which has baffled doctors and left her struggling to walk and perform daily chores.
Three years ago, Ms Isom suffered an allergic reaction which caused her illness, reported the Daily Mail.
The 28-year-old former University of Memphis law student has seen every possible specialist, including a doctor in the Netherlands, but still has no idea what her affliction is.
Ms Isom was in her first year at university, where she was studying criminal justice, when the mystery illness first flared up in September 2009, according to WLBT in Memphis, which first reported the story.
She had been prescribed steroids after suffering an asthma attack, and within hours, she was “itching” all over her body.
Her legs then turned black.
Doctors treated her for virtually every condition – from eczema to Staphylococcal infection – without success.
The disease has affected not only MsIsom’s skin, but also her bones and vision. Ms Isom cannot walk without a cane, and has to be helped out of bed daily.
Doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, where Ms Isom has been undergoing treatment since last year, realised that the scabs were actually human nails.
They told her family that she is the only person in the world with this condition, reported ABC News.
Her mother, Ms Kathy Gary, said: “Black scabs were coming out of her skin. The nails would grow so long and come out and regrow themselves. They are hard to touch.”
Ms Isom produces 12 times the normal number of skin cells per hair follicle, suffocating her skin. “Where hair grows, nails are growing,” MsIsom told WAFB news.
What is Keratosis Pilaris?
This condition is a disorder of the skin that is hereditary, and commonly found in people with very dry skin and/or a vitamin A deficiency. Some people can have this disorder and not know it. Not everyone that has it knows it because some people are just “carriers” if you will. The signs of the disorder are not evident in every carrier. Some people get lucky I guess!
Keratosis Pilaris is characterized by small red bumps (sometimes with white in them) that are raised on the skin like goose bumps. They are very similar looking to pimples, but they are not pimples. This is a common mistake among sufferers. Sometimes they will itch, but not usually. Here’s the main thing, the placement of the bumps. These bumps only appear in certain places. Most commonly they appear on the back of the upper arms, and the side and front of the upper thighs. It can also appear on the hips, buttocks and facial cheeks, but this is not common.
These bumps are very tiny, but annoying as ever. Not to be gross, but if you squeeze any of them, you are likely to see a hard, white substance come out of the bumps. This substance is thick and hard, and it is made of keratin protein that has gotten trapped in the hair follicles. The word “keratin” is the name for what hair, nails and the top layer of skin are made of. “Pilaris” means hair follicles. That’s where the name Keratosis Pilaris comes from.
This condition can be very annoying, particularly for women because it poses an esteem issue. When it’s hot outside, women want to wear sleeveless shirts, shorts and bathing suits, but with this condition, we just want to cover up and hide from the world. It can be a big problem for a person’s self-esteem and it will make you very conscious of how you look. Usually this condition is not very noticeable to other people from a distance, but it can be very un-romantic when your husband or boyfriend decides to caress your lovely arms…ACK! So this is an important issue for women that have Keratosis Pilaris. I am sure there are men that are very self-conscious about it too.
What Causes Keratosis Pilaris?
As I mentioned above, this disorder is hereditary, so it is passed down from relatives like parents or grandparents. And it’s very possible you could pass it along to your children and/or grandchildren. It may not appear in any of them, or it could appear in all of them. This disorder is very strange in who it chooses to affect. I know I got this from someone in my family, but to my knowledge, no one else I know personally has this problem. So I have no idea who I got it from.
If you have this disorder, you have it for life. It will never go away or be cured, but you can treat it several different ways. There are things that can make the condition worse though. People with dry skin have a more difficult time treating the condition than those with oily skin. Also, the weather makes a difference; keratosis pilaris is worse in winter than in summer. Winter months are much drier so that makes the condition worse in most cases. Summer is usually a relief to sufferers as it brings humidity and will usually allow the condition to clear up more than usual.
How Do You Treat Keratosis Pilaris?
As I said, there is no cure, only treatments. Unfortunately the treatments my dermatologist offered me did not offer much help. After doing much reading and research on Keratosis Pilaris, I have found that most doctors will tell sufferers the same things. The most common treatment I have heard and read is to use a buff-puff or a loofah sponge, and then apply a lotion like Am Lactin or Lac Hydrin. I used these lotions and they did not work at all for me.
Usually when these do not work, doctors will prescribe a cream that has a high level of Retin-A in it. I used some of this and it did help, but not as much as I’d hoped. Even so, without insurance, this medicine can be outrageously expensive. I first used samples to see if it worked for me, and the tubes that I had were very small. So small that between applying to my arms and my legs, I could only get 2 applications out of one tube! This means I would need a tube a day. I took one of the tubes to my pharmacy and asked if the prescription tubes were larger or the same size as the sample tubes. The pharmacist said the prescription tubes were exactly the size of the sample tube. Then I warily asked him the price on one tube (which was one day’s worth of application for me and it’s to be used daily) and I almost fainted when he told me. One tube, one day’s application, was $40! Yes, you heard me right, $40! Well if I needed a tube a day, and it was to be applied every single day, there was no way I was buying this stuff. Especially if it only helped my problem…not solving it! So unless you have magnificent insurance, watch out for the Retin-A creams, they are very expensive.
After becoming very frustrated with the doctor’s recommendations and treatments, I decided to find a treatment of my own. I began to try different things here and there until I found one that has worked great for me. All people with Keratosis Pilaris may not find relief in the same treatments, but I’m going to tell you what worked for me. This has to be followed exactly in order to see any results!
– First I use a thick loofah sponge or buff-puff on the affected areas. I do this daily and I only use Dove Nutrium Body Wash with my sponge. I have tried several moisturizing body washes, and this one has proven to be the best for me. It is a dual formula that contains a gentle cleanser and a moisturizing lotion at the same time. It works great. W
hen using the sponge, scrub as hard as you can on the affected area, and in a circular motion. Exfoliation is very important, especially since the affected areas are so dry. (Note: Dove has also recently come out with a Dove Nutrium Bar! So now I use both, and they are great. They make my skin so soft and silky, and the moisturizers are very good for the keratosis pilaris.)
– After I exfoliate with this body wash, I then apply an over the counter lotion that has worked wonders for my keratosis pilaris. Neutrogena makes this lotion and it’s called “Multi-Vitamin Acne Treatment”. I know what you are thinking; keratosis pilaris is not acne. No it’s not, but for some reason this stuff works. In my reading and research on the subject, I ran across a treatment that recommended using a moisturizer that contained a small amount of salicylic acid. This product contains both. It is full of vitamins and moisturizers that are great for your skin, and it also contains this salicylic acid. If you apply this lotion right after you have scrubbed with the Dove Nutrium, it will give you results within 2 or 3 days. It did for me!
– I also apply the Neutrogena Multi Vitamin Acne Treatment at night before going to bed. So I am applying it twice a day, once after showering and exfoliating, and once at bedtime.
– Adding a humidifier in your bedroom will also help to clear your skin. The moisture will hydrate your dry skin while you sleep at night and help in clearing up the keratosis pilaris.
– This next “treatment” is one I have found on my own and doctors do not recommend it. I am not telling anyone to do this, I am simply telling you what has worked in clearing up my skin condition. Tanning in the sun or in a tanning bed/salon. I like to tan anyway, so by trial and error I found that it cleared my skin. I started going to a tanning bed 2 or 3 times a week at first, and then dropped down to once a week. Each time I would tan for 12 to 15 minutes. That is not a lot of exposure, and it cleared my skin better than ANYTHING else I have ever done. I still have occasional problems with my arms, but my legs cleared right up and those bumps have never returned to this day, and I have not tanned in over 6 months. So I am very pleased with these results.
Again, I am not recommending or condoning tanning or sunbathing, but I am telling you that it has helped to clear up my terrible case of Keratosis Pilaris.
Doing these things consistently has helped me tremendously, but if you miss a day, you pay! Consistency is the key.