Nguyen Thi Phuong on her wedding day five years ago, left, and now – aged 26 – on the right
A skin condition that has left a young woman from Vietnam looking like a pensioner has stumped doctors over what has caused her to age 50 years in a matter of days.
Nguyen Thi Phuong, 26, believes the cause of the astonishing rapid ageing process that has left her with deep-set wrinkles, a puffy face and saggy skin to be a life-long allergy to seafood.
Referring to the image of her as 21-year-old on her wedding day in 2006 before the disorder struck, she said: “Five years ago, I was rather pretty and not so ugly like this, right?”
She thinks she suffered a particularly bad reaction two years after her marriage, in 2008, treating herself with medication from a local pharmacy as the couple could not afford to have her examined at hospital.
“I was really itchy all over my body. I had to scratch even while sleeping,” she said.
“after one month of taking the drugs, I became less itchy but hives remained on my skin.
“Then I switched to traditional medicine and all the hives disappeared, together with my itching. however, my skin began to sag and fold.”
The couple do not recall which pharmacy they obtained the remedy from – or even what it was called.
Wearing a mask to obscure her face whenever she goes out, mrs. Nguyen described how the external ageing effect is not paralleled with any internal consequences.
“the skin on my face, chest and belly have folds like an old woman who has given birth several times although I have never had a child,” she said.
“but the rapid-aging syndrome hasn’t affected my menstrual cycle, hair, teeth, eyes and mind.”
Thankfully, her husband Nguyen Thanh Tuyen believes love is more than skin deep
He said: “I married Phuong when she was a beautiful woman. I have followed her through her disease and have never been shocked at all.
“It’s not easy to talk about one’s own marital affairs. just simply understand that I still love her very much.”
And mrs Nguyen credits their loving bond as the reason she is able to carry on day-to-day, even though the couple earn less than a total of £92 a month and heavily restricting the opportunity for her to be examined in hospital.
She said: “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.”
The couple have however resolved not to start a family, due to the difficulties they face due to her condition.
Mr. Nguyen said: “our only wish is to have some philanthropists or doctors help my wife to make her normal face again.’
Earlier this month, doctors from Nguyen Dinh Chieu Hospital in Ben Tre Province said they would examine mrs. Nguen for free and send her to the HCMC Dermatology Hospital if they failed to diagnose her condition.
There is, however, considerable disagreement among doctors over the nature of the mystery condition.
Visited this week by Doctor Hoang Van Minh from the Ho Chi Minh City Medicine and Pharmacy University Hospital, he believes mrs Nguyen may have been afflicted with mastocytosis, evidenced by the fact her face is still swollen and she suffers frequently from diarrhoea – giving hope medical treatment may be able to restore her appearance to some degree.
“she needs to be treated for her allergies first,” said Dr Hoang.
He added that his treatment plan could restore between 50-70 percent of her skin to normal and laser therapy could reduce the folds.