Posted on: January 31, 2020
Alumna Naomi Johansen, MD, FAAD, and her colleague Jean-Pierre Galliani, MD, FAAD, have been honored by the American Academy of Dermatology as Patient Care Heroes for their diagnosis and treatment of a patient with aquagenic keratoderma, a rare condition that causes extreme, painful wrinkles of the palms after exposure to water.
Sarasota, Fla., resident Josie Lopez first displayed symptoms of the disease at age 11, with aching hands and bumpy, white palms after swimming. For years, Lopez underwent treatments—ranging from topical creams to a biopsy—with no improvement. The pain caused Lopez to stop swimming and to tolerate only short showers.
Finally, at the end of high school, Lopez saw dermatologists Drs. Galliani and Johansen, who immediately diagnosed her with aquagenic keratoderma and administered injections in her palms that provided lasting relief.
“Drs. Galliani and Johansen took one look at my palms and immediately knew I had aquagenic keratoderma,” said Lopez. “For the first time in seven years, I was able to swim, shower, and wash my hands without pain. Shortly after my first treatment, I was able to swim with dolphins during my family’s vacation—something I had only dreamed of doing.”
Research estimates that only 40 cases of aquagenic keratoderma have been reported globally. The condition is one of more than 3,000 skin, hair, and nail diseases that board-certified dermatologists diagnose, treat, and manage.
“It’s important to really listen to patients,” said Dr. Galliani. “Even if a complaint seems odd or not life-threatening, it can really affect someone’s quality of life. I’m glad we were able to give Josie relief from a condition that is truly debilitating.”
Dr. Johansen added, “Aquagenic keratoderma is very rare. I remember learning about it in medical school and I didn’t think I would see it again. As Josie’s case demonstrates, it’s important for physicians to be familiar with rare conditions and the different symptoms in order to make the right diagnosis and create a treatment plan that improves a person’s day-to-day life.”
The AAD created the Patient Care Heroes program to recognize physicians who transform patients’ lives by utilizing their expertise and collaborating with other physicians to treat serious skin disease.
“Living with a rare disease is physically demanding and often emotionally isolating,” said board-certified dermatologist George J. Hruza, MD, MBA, FAAD, president of the AAD. “The American Academy of Dermatology commends Drs. Galliani and Johansen for diagnosing and treating Josie so she can live life to the fullest—whether swimming with dolphins or simply enjoying a pain-free shower.”
Learn more about Drs. Galliani and Johansen here.