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Hailey, 22, says she began noticing painful, red sores on her cheek when she was 14. At first, she thought the rash might be ringworm, but a dermatologist quickly ended that fear and suggested it could be a reaction to the weather. When her symptoms didn’t subside, she visited another dermatologist who thought the rash might be acne. However, the acne treatment she used made her symptoms worsen and spread, leaving Hailey concerned and frustrated.
“When I look in the mirror, I feel helpless,” she says. “Why can’t people figure out what’s happening to my face?”
Hailey says the raw, red patches are extremely painful. When she showers, she says the pressure from the water makes her feel like her face is burning. She says she has seen more than 10 dermatologists and been told her skin condition is a complete mystery. Her mother, Sherri, says the doctors just send her home because they don’t know what can be done.
Hailey reached out to The Doctors for help, and they send her to a team of specialists for a consultation. Allergist Dr. Warner Carr runs a full blood panel on Hailey and discovers her condition might be an autoimmune disorder. He refers her to dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra and rheumatologist Dr. Swamy Venuturupalli for further examination. Dr. Batra biopsies Hailey’s skin, and Dr. Venuturupalli runs further tests to ascertain whether the condition is, in fact, an autoimmune response and, if so, which disorder.
Hailey and Sherri join Dr. Venuturupalli and OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Ashton in The Doctors’ studio, where they learn the final results of Hailey’s tests.
Dr. Venuturupalli explains that the tests revealed Hailey likely is suffering from cutaneous lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the tissue. Only 10 percent of lupus patients suffer from this form of the condition, which exclusively affects the skin. Systemic lupus, which accounts for the majority of lupus cases, can cause widespread inflammation and organ and tissue damage.
Women are more likely than men to receive a lupus diagnosis, and women of color are two to three times more likely than Caucasians to develop the condition. The disease can result from an inherited predisposition that is triggered by an environmental factor, such as sun exposure, infection or certain medications. There currently is no cure for lupus, and treatment will depend on the symptoms the patient is experiencing. Common medications include anti-inflammatory drugs, antimalarial drugs, corticosteroids and immunosuppressants.
Dr. Batra says the tests also revealed elevated levels of microscopic mites on Hailey's skin, which could be contributing to the inflammation. Fortunately, she explains, there are medications Hailey can use to reduce those levels and treat her afflicted skin.
"I feel so blessed," Hailey says. "I'm so happy to finally have the answers I've been looking for. It feels amazing."