Wed, Sep 21, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Doctor warns that skin problem could be lethal

STAFF WRITER

In view of recent high temperatures, officials cautioned the public not to assume they have heatstroke with "skin inflammation," a kind of skin disease that could be lethal to persons if they fail to receive treatment.

Chao Chao-ming (趙昭明), a doctor at the Tri-Service General Hospital's skin department, made the warning yesterday after a recent case in which an elderly man who felt faint and had red spots on his face thought he was suffering from sunstroke due to the hot weather. But after an examination, doctors found he was suffering from dermatomyositis, which can be lethal if it is not treated quickly.

"Do not assume you have sunstroke if you have symptoms similar to the old man's," Chao said.

"Dermatomyositis is a dangerous disease which has a 75 percent mortality rate if it occurs in the elderly," Chao added.

Chao said the 70 year-old man routinely took morning walks. Recently, he found his face kept turning red and that there were spots on his face, but he assumed it was just sunburn and ignored the symptoms. Two weeks later, the man went to see a skin doctor, who treated the case as a general skin rash and prescribed treatment.

But after a period of treatment, Chao said, the symptoms didn't go away, and the old man felt very weak and was unable to even walk up stairs.

Chao said the man came to the hospital, and after a careful examination, he and other doctors found the man was suffering from dermatomyositis, which is a disease that affects the immune system.

Chao said the disease originally causes skin changes, then muscle weakness, and if a patient does not receive medical treatment, it could cause muscle atrophy and then affect a patient's breathing, after which the patient will probably die from the disease.

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