A friend of mine has a relative who is a missionary in Eastern Europe. He recently shared photographs and the story of a man he is caring for, who has an extremely bizarre skin condition. The man has keratin-like matter growing out of the skin on hands and feet, which started when he was young, and very slowly continues to spread and grow. The areas begin as skin lesions, and the matter sprouts from those spots. The growths are very difficult to remove, and the man has so far just had to learn to live with it. There are a few medical precedents to this man's case, but nothing is certain until more tests are done. In the meantime, the missionary is helping to make life easier for the man. UPDATE: Here is the latest on this situation.
The missionary writes...
"I found this man, and other than his hands and feet, he looked and seemed in good health. As best as I could gather these growths began when he was 14 years old, and began in the area of his wrists. The skin on his wrists and the back of his hands resembles that of a hedgehog - hundreds of spike like growths. The problem is much more severe on his palms and fingers where the growths resemble very much that of nails infected with a fungus. The growths have that same texture, smell and feel. I cut a number of the largest growths off, most of witch did not bleed. Some of the smaller growths did bleed a small amount and he seemed much more sensitive to the cutting of the smaller growths. I soaked his hands first in 3 WEA (phenyl mercuric nitrate) and then began. The 3 WEA did help to soften the growths but they still took time to cut through, or sand down, but it worked just as it does with these types of nails on normal hands or feet. I was able to pull many of the smaller growths off applying steady pressure and slowly pulling. But after 1.5 hrs there was not a noticeable change as there are hundreds and hundreds of growths. There was also quite a bit of dissolved material in the bucket of 3 WEA after we finished.
On his feet I did not cut anything, but tried two different solutions of salicylic acid, one a bit weaker than the other, and also a freeze spray wart remover.
I met his mother and brother (they all live together) and their skin looked very normal. They all eat the same foods and he and his brother sleep in the same bed.
It has grown slowly but steadily but has not spread to other parts of his body, just a bit below his knees on his legs. He has other skin growth (many would be skin tags) on his face, and some moles on his chest. The growths are not as bad on his feet but I was told that more than 10 years ago many we cauterized off his feet, and they did not return. I think with repeated soaking and cutting most could be removed but other parts will I think need to be burned away in some form."
I emailed the missionary a few more questions:
Is there a medical term for this man's condition?
Doctors here have called it Lewandowsky-Lutz, though I have not been able to find any pictures of this condition to compare.
Has any analysis of the matter growing off of his skin been done?
There was 18 years ago, when they came up with the name of what they thought it was. He has not been treated since then.
When do you understand that this started with him?
He is now 38 and it started when he was 14, on one wrist. He never returned for treatments as he felt the first cauterizing was effective in that the growths did not return to that area, but felt they grew more quickly in other areas.
Does the man have any other unusual symptoms?
He appears healthy other than the growths. He has 15 skin tags on his face, and a wart in one ear.
Have there been any theories about this man's past, something he
might have done, ingested, or places he's been to... that may have
As he says he did not do or eat anything his brother did not do or eat, and his brother appears to be perfectly normal, not yet. I am currently showing the pictures to veterinarians, as I am also considering that maybe this is something he got from an animal (pig, sheep, cow).
Does it look like the man's condition is treatable or curable?
Curable, I don't know. But with ongoing thorough cleaning, creams, soaking and cutting - it will be much better for him.
More photos (click for larger view):