A 26-year-old Vietnamese woman, Nguyen Thi Phuong, and her husband have talked to the media for the first time since 2008 when, for all practical appearances, she aged the equivalent of 50 years.
The rapid aging began after Phuong had an allergic reaction to seafood. Phuong, who was particularly attractive before the sad event unfolded, said her youthful beauty faded quickly, leaving her with “sagging, wrinkled skin all over her face and body” within a few days, according to a recent article in the Huffington Post.
Phuong said she has been allergic to seafood for a long time but she had suffered a particularly bad reaction in 2008.
Until recently Phuong wore a mask when she left her small rented home in the southern province of Binh Phuoc's Bu Dop District where she and her still-devoted husband rent a small wooden house. Phuong and her husband, Nguyen Thanh Tuyen, who works as a carpenter, moved from the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre sometime after the aging affliction transformed her appearance into that of a woman in her 70s.
Phuong works in a cashew nut-processing factory and together with her husband’s carpentry pay the couple earns about $100 per month and cannot afford the care of doctors that might be able to help her.
After viewing photos of Phuong before the episode and from a short while after, some doctors speculate her condition is “lipodystrophy - a rare syndrome that causes a layer of fatty tissue beneath the surface of the skin to disintegrate while the skin itself continues to grow at a startling pace.”
The syndrome has no known cure and causes loose folds of skin to form quickly all over the victims’ bodies, resulting in grossly wrinkled faces and physical appearances of people decades older. The condition is considered extremely rare given only 2,000 people out of a global population of about 7 billion are thought to have lipodystrophy.
Photos from Phuong’s 2006 wedding show a beautiful, smiling 21-year-old woman. "Five years ago, I was rather pretty and not so ugly like this, right?" Phuong queried. A juxtaposed recent photo of her depicts sagging, aged features one might mistake for those of her grandmother.
"I was really itchy all over my body. I had to scratch even while sleeping," Phuong said about the days after her reaction.
Phuong claims her husband has loved her throughout the never-ending ordeal and that his love is the reason she is able to persevere in the face of adversity.
"He still loves me like before despite the fact that I look old and ugly. With him, I feel more confident to live and work," Phuong said.
Due to coverage in the media, in October, doctors from Nguyen Dinh Chieu Hospital in Ben Tre Province said they would examine Phuong for free and send her to the HCMC Dermatology Hospital if they failed to diagnose her condition.
Recently Phuong was transported to Ho Chi Minh City Medicine and Pharmacy University Hospital where doctors say Phuong might be suffering from mastocytosis, an incurable disorder caused by the presence of too many mast cells, according to the Thanh Nien News reports.
Additional tests are needed to confirm whether Phuong has mastocyttosis, lipodystrophy or some other disorder before she starts any treatments.