His Mom Thought It’s Just Chickenpox But It’s Way Worse
Rashes and illnesses are part of childhood. When 10 month old Oscar Langham developed small blisters all over his face and body, his mother assumed he had chicken pox. However, a visit to the doctor revealed that these were not pox, but rather a more serious and even life-threatening issue. Oscar, not even a year old, was suffering from a rare disease called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.
Langerhans cell histiocytosis is a disease in which the body makes too many histiocytes, a kind of immune cell. Histiocytes are a type of white blood cell and play an important part in immunity against infection. In this disease, the body makes so many histioctyes that they begin to build up and form small tumors. Langerhans cells are a type of histiocyte that are made in the bone marrow and move freely throughout the body. Because of the mobility of these cells, tumors from Langerhans cell histiocytosis may be anywhere on the body and face as well as in internal organs and bones.
This disease mainly presents in small children, although adults get it very rarely. Doctors believe there is a genetic component to Langerhans cell histiocytosis, but it does not appear to be directly passed from parents to children.
Once thought to be a form of cancer due to the numerous tumors involved, doctors now believe Langerhans cell histiocytosis is an autoimmune disease like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Although it is not contagious, it is unsightly. Oscar’s parents report that strangers stare and avoid their son for fear of contagion. The baby is covered in these small tumors, which resemble blisters, and even may lose some sight due to damage from having them in his eyes.
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Langerhans cell histiocytosis does not always begin with a rash or blisters. Sufferers may have bone pain and organ dysfunction if the tumors appear first inside their bodies. In addition, many people have flu-like symptoms from the autoimmune reaction underlying the disease. These can include chronic infections, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and fever. Some children get a rash and dandruff before the distinctive blisters begin to form.
Because doctors are not entirely sure what causes this disease, treatment can be difficult. Steroids are given to reduce immune system activity and inflammation. The skin lesions may go away when treated with nitrogen mustard, photodynamic therapy, and UV light therapy. In addition, many children with this disease must take chemotherapy drugs. If the tumors are compromising organs, they may need to be removed with one or more surgeries. The treatments are harsh and have many side effects. In addition, some children, including Oscar, do not respond to treatment. Unfortunately, there are no known natural remedies for this disease.
While many people in his community do not understand Oscar’s disease and are thus afraid to approach him, he remains a happy child with a loving family. His parents are currently seeking help from an expert in Langerhans cell histiocytosis and are hopeful that doctors may soon find a treatment that allows their son to lead a healthy and happy life.