A MAN says he’s been left looking like a zombie after a rare skin condition caused his face to break out in dozens of flesh-eating ulcers.
Steve Young, 32, started getting painful sores and pus-filled boils across his face, chest and arms 18 months ago.
He was eventually diagnosed with pyoderma gangrenosum in August, but the medication has severely weakened his immune system.
The former carpenter, from Honiton, Devon, had to give up his job because of the condition and says he’s dependent on a cocktail of drugs.
Steve spends 25 minutes a day dressing his wounds and says he’s frightened to leave the house due to horrified stares from strangers and the constant risk of infection.
He said: “It’s completely ruined my life, I feel like a prisoner in my own home.
“I’ve said to myself that I look like a zombie. I don’t go out now, the weather is too cold and I can’t chance it due to the risk of developing an infection.
It’s completely ruined my life, I feel like a prisoner in my own home
“It’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. The only way to describe it is that it’s like someone sticking in knives at various points across your body continuously.
“I need help washing and dressing, it’s taken my independence away from me.
“If I go out people will just stare at me. Some people will come up and ask me ‘what’s wrong’ but most just stare.
“I’m just trying to keep myself in a bubble and focus on getting better.”
Steve claims that he was unaware what the cause of his misery was for 18 months until finally being diagnosed with pyoderma gangrenosum.
The condition can develop for no reason and results in boils and blisters developing into painful ulcers that ooze fluid across the body and can become dangerously infected.
Steve said: “In December 2017 I started getting boils on my face. I went to the GP and was prescribed different types of antibiotics but I started getting more and more ulcers.
“I was referred to a dermatologist in 2018. He said he’d never seen anything as aggressive before.
What is pyoderma gangrenosum and who’s most at risk?
Pyoderma gangrenosum is a rare skin condition that causes painful ulcers.
It’s usually treatable but could take some time to heal and may leave some scarring.
The condition can appear suddenly as either a small pimple, red bump or blood blister.
The skin then breaks down into a painful ulcer with a purple or blue edge that may ooze fluid, which can grow quickly and several may develop in the area.
If the ulcer gets infected, you may also feel unwell and develop a high temperature.
Pyoderma gangrenosum usually occurs on the legs, although it can affect any area of skin and sometimes develops around an injury or surgical wound.
The exact cause of pyoderma gangrenosum is not understood, but it’s thought to be a reaction to a disease or illness.
However, many people have no related condition and there’s no obvious reason for it.
The skin reaction isn’t passed down to children from their parents through genes. It’s also not contagious so can’t be transferred from or to another person.
It may sometimes be triggered by minor skin damage or an injury – for example, it may develop around a wound, a needle prick, a biopsy or an insect bite.
People with the following health conditions are most likely to develop pyoderma gangrenosum, even if the condition is mild or well controlled:
- inflammatory bowel disease – including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- rheumatoid arthritis – a long-term condition causing pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints
- blood dyscrasia – a blood disorder
- hepatitis – inflammation of the liver
- granulomatosis with polyangiitis – a rare condition in which the walls of blood vessels become inflamed
- cancer affecting the blood cells – including acute myeloid leukaemia
- PAPA syndrome – a rare genetic disorder
Pyoderma gangrenosum often heals with relatively simple treatments. However, it may take some time and often leaves some scarring in the affected area.
Some people heal very slowly, over months or years. Others may find the condition clears up within a few weeks. In some cases, it returns after treatment.
There are a number of treatment options, but there’s no clear evidence to suggest which the best one is.
“I went in for four biopsies and no one could seem to determine what was going on.
“For 18 months I had no idea what was going on, I was tested for all sorts of things even though I had about 14 boils across my body.
“Throughout this time the ulcers got larger and larger and more and more painful.”
It’s like someone sticking in knives at various points across your body continuously
Steve had to quit his job as a carpenter because of the risk of infection and now says he’s reluctant to leave the house.
He said that the ulcers on his face draw shocked expressions from passersby and that he feels embarrassed by his condition.
Steve is currently trying to raise money on GoFundMe to seek private treatment for the condition.
He said: “I’ve tried all sorts of medication and nothing seems to work.
“I’ve been on steroids for 18 months and I’ve put three-and-a-half stone.
“All I want is to live a normal life and to get back to work. For the condition to go away would be the world’s best Christmas present. It would be a breath of fresh air.”