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Some acne is a normal part of teen life, but 15-year-old Tiffani’s extreme form has subjected her to years of excruciating pain, disfiguring scars, and cruel taunts from her peers. Can The Doctors help?
The first boil appeared on Tiffani’s face on her 11th birthday. She covered it with makeup, but soon more developed on her face and body – and then one under her arm ruptured, revealing a gaping wound.
Alberto, her father, rushed Tiffani to the emergency room. “I didn’t know what to think – I was so scared!” Tiffani weeps.
Tiffani was diagnosed with hidradenitis suppurativa, a skin disease that attacks the sweat glands and causes painful lesions. In spite of treatment, including two surgeries to remove the sweat glands under her arms, the cysts and lesions spread to more areas of her body.
Her peers at school asked cruel questions about her appearance, adding the pain of rejection to Tiffani’s physical agony. “The toughest part is the pain, and people saying ‘what happened to your face?’ It just hurts my feelings a lot.” Tiffani says.
ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork asks, “What would it mean to you if your skin wasn’t painful and looked normal?”
“It would mean I don’t have to hide,” she responds.
The Doctors send Tiffani to Dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra for answers. Tiffani says her facial scars drain two to three times a day. Dr. Batra performs cortisone injections to collapse her scars and reduce the draining, then promises to join Tiffani on the set of The Doctors to discuss her diagnosis and treatment.
This is one of the most severe cases I’ve seen,“ Dr.Batra announces. Tiffani isn’t just suffering from hidradenitis suppurativa – she also has follicular occlusion, a very severe form called acne conglobata. This is causing her facial scars and draining. The condition she was already diagnosed with is causing the specialized sweat glands, called apocrine glands, in Tiffani’s armpits and elsewhere to swell, hurt, and form sinuses and cysts.
One thing that fuels all of these conditions is an excess of the hormone androgen. The root cause of Tiffani’s problems is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This disorder often causes hormone imbalances, which why her symptoms started around puberty.
“You’ve seen the best of the best, and now we know what we’re dealing with,” ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork reassures Tiffani.
Dr. Batra confirms that there are newer anti-inflammatory treatments than the ones originally subscribed for Tiffani. Now that her PCOS has been diagnosed her hormones can be balanced, and her pain can be relieved with medication. Finally, her scars can be diminished by lasers or injections.
Tiffani and her family don’t have to face this alone anymore. The Doctors have arranged for Tiffani to receive 10 therapy sessions with Doctor on Demand to help her cope with the trauma she’s experienced.
But that’s not all! Dr. Amber Long of Asarch Dermatology & Aesthetics in Denver, Colorado, offers Tiffani ongoing care for her skin. Asarch Dermatology’s physicians will use state-of-the-art laser technology to soften and minimize her scars. A team of experts will also treat her PCOS and manage her pain control, all at no cost. This package of care is valued at more than $30,000.
Dr. Stork reveals that Tiffani is the kind of person who will be paying forward the care she receives. “Tiffani wants to become a doctor, and I think she’s going to have such empathy and be an amazing physician!”
“A gentle reminder to all of us,” concludes Dr. Stork. “When you see someone, you don’t necessarily know the pain, the physical struggles they’re going through. The last thing they need in addition to all that is to be bullied and made fun of. Tiffani, you’re a shining example to all of us.”
Doctor on Demand was created by The Doctors' executive producer.