Rapid ageing: A mystery condition has apparently caused Nguyen Thi Phuong's face to sag and wrinkle over a matter of day. She is pictured aged 21 on the left and 26 on the right.
She has always worn wear a mask in public to hide her appearance from prying eyes, but she has now sought help from doctors to see if they can reverse the 'ageing' effect. Displaying photos of a beautiful 21-year-old woman on her wedding day in 2006, Mrs Nguyen said: 'Five years ago, I was rather pretty and not so ugly like this, right?'
Mrs Nguyen believes her condition was caused by a life-long allergy to seafood. She said she had suffered a particularly bad reaction in 2008. 'I was really itchy all over my body. I had to scratch even while sleeping.' Phuong said she took some medicine bought at a local pharmacy instead of going to the hospital because her and her husband Tuyen, now 33, were too poor to afford it.
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.'
Mrs Nguyen then took another kind of traditional medicine to treat her rapid-aging skin problem - but to no avail. Doctors say it may have been the long-term use of traditional medicines that caused the condition as they are often spiked with corticoids. These steroids speed up the effects of the unregulated remedies but could also have triggered the rare skin disease mastocytosis, where the body produces too many mast cells. The couple do not remember what the medicine was or which pharmacy they got it from.