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September 15, 2009

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Young man haunted by rare skin disease

A SHANGHAI hospital has offered free treatment to a young man with a rare skin disease that makes him look about 40 years older than his actual age.

Li Zhaoluo, 23, looks about 60 years old with many facial wrinkles, loose skin around his neck and dropped eyelids. His condition makes it difficult to find work as most potential employers believe he is an old man with a fake identity card.

Shandong Province native Li said he started prematurely aging seven years ago and that he had gone to various hospitals looking for a remedy.

Experts at Shanghai Art Plastic Cosmetic & Esthetic Hospital in Changning District yesterday conducted a group diagnosis on Li and said he suffered a skin disease called acquired localized cutis laxa.

Cutis laxa is characterized by loose skin that results in a much older appearance than the person's true age. It can be congenital or acquired. The cause of the disease is unknown and there is no definitive treatment.

"Li was only found with loose skin above the neck while medical tests found his organs, bones and other functions in line with his actual age," said Jin Zhuoping, a hospital official.

Since Li was adopted as a child, it was impossible to study his family history.

"We checked domestic records and found Li was the 42nd known case in China," Jin said. "Our experts are discussing a treatment plan. Surgical repair is the only therapeutic choice, but the result is temporary. We will probably remove his own fat to fill the wrinkles."

Li said his appearance had caused him a lot of stress. He said he became depressed and was reluctant to meet people.

"I graduated from a vocational school with a major in mechanics and I can't find a job," he said. "Company officials always question my age and they even accuse me of cheating them with a fake identity card."

Li said he wanted to look younger so he could get a job.

"I need a job to support my family," he said.

Li's adoptive father died of cancer in 2006. His brother had polio in childhood and his sister is mentally challenged.

Hospital officials said they offered free treatment after considering Li's circumstances.


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