Mystery disease: Fingernails tell all
Imagine losing your hair, vomiting every time you ate and living in extreme pain. Now, imagine if doctors couldn’t help you because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. That’s exactly what happened to one woman — art teacher, Ingrid Dick.
Dick says she loves watching her students at work, “just seeing what comes out of their little imaginations and their minds.”
But a year ago, Dick didn’t know if she would ever be able to teach again. She was in severe pain, vomiting every time she ate. She lost her hair and 55 pounds.
“I was so ill,” Dick explained.
Tests showed hundreds of polyps in her colon. But every doctor she saw was stumped.
“I just thought who could help me,” Dick said. “No one could figure out what was wrong with me.”
Then she met William Sandborn, M.D., chief of the division of gastroenterology at UC San Diego Health System. After many tests and lots of research, one question seemed to solve the mystery — a look at her nails.
“We had her take off her fingernail polish, and then we could see exactly what it was,” Sandborn said.
Dick’s nails were brittle and yellow, telltale signs of a rare intestinal disease known as Cronkhite-Canada syndrome, or CCS. There have been fewer than 500 cases reported over the last 50 years. There was no treatment, so Sandborn tried a drug called Remicade.
“No one had ever done this before for this disease,” Sandborn said.
The drug worked. Dick’s polyps disappeared, and her symptoms vanished.
“It’s just like someone flipped a switch and all of a sudden, I felt so much better,” Dick said.
Now, she can focus less on her illness and more on her favorite little artists.