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A day in the life of a patient suffering from Yaws (Endemic treponematoses)


Life has become too difficult. I was enjoying my life as usual when suddenly, one day, I noticed some nodules and lesions appearing on my skin. Initially, I thought it to be some kind of skin allergy. However, the skin lesions persisted and later, it was diagnosed as an infective condition called Yaws.

It’s been 2 years since I was detected with this infection. The symptoms have become worse as I have entered the secondary phase of Yaws. Let me share my experience with you about how Yaws has changed my life.

Waking up in the morning

The doctor told me Yaws is a chronic bacterial infection that occurs due to treponemes. Among the various forms of treponemes, I am suffering from an infection caused due to Treponema pallidum subspecies, Pertenue. That is why; it is also called Endemic treponematoses.
However, this fancy name does not soothe my sufferings in any way. Every day, I get up with joint pains. Several joints in my body are affected due to this infection. Even the smallest movements like writing or lifting a glass of water causes pain in my hands.

Starting the day

I wish to avoid any activity that needs me to move about and these include brushing my teeth and taking a bath also. However, I cannot ignore the importance of hygiene and hence, have no other option to bear the pain and perform these activities.

The doctor has specifically advised me to maintain the hygiene of the skin to prevent the lesions from worsening. I dry the skin thoroughly after taking a bath so that the skin lesions do not provide a favorable environment for the bacteria and fungi to thrive and make my condition worse.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

I avoid eating fried foods. I have also stopped eating all forms of junk foods, which I loved. This change has been brought about by Yaws. I have become very weak and lost confidence in myself. The weakness might be psychological. But, I do not want to take any risk with my health. So, I have restricted my diet to freshly cooked meals. I eat fruits and salads to feel full.

I have realized it is time to start paying more attention to my health and stop being careless about the diet. I am also eating foods containing vitamin C and E. Vitamin C will help me by boosting my immune system and vitamin E should improve the health of my skin.

Going to work and taking medications

It is very difficult for me to travel to the office. However, it is not possible for me to take a very long leave. I could have tried to do so if the infection was acute. But, now I am suffering from the secondary phase of Yaws, which is expected to affect me for a longer duration. So, I will have to bear with the pain and other symptoms and continue working.

The doctor had given me an intramuscular injection of penicillin when the diagnosis was confirmed. He also advised me to take a course of erythromycin, penicillin, and tetracycline. This has helped to control the primary and secondary phase lesions of Yaws. However, the doctor has confided in me that the treatment may not help to reverse the destructive changes that may occur during the tertiary phase of this condition.

Prevention of complications

Yaws is transmitted from an infected person to others by direct skin-to-skin contact. The bacteria can enter the body of a normal person through a scratch, pre-existing cut, or a bite. The doctor has advised me to avoid direct contact with my family members to prevent the spread of the infection.

What are the daily limitations and what are the fears?

Yaws has affected the health of my skin, bones, and the joints. Though the hard and round nodules that appeared on my skin initially have resolved to some extent, the progress of the disease to affect my joints has made my life miserable.

Besides the joint pains, I am also experiencing the worsening of some skin problems. Though some skin lesions are healed, some have broken and formed ulcers. It has affected my appearance and personality to a great extent. There is also scarring of the skin tissues in some places.

These symptoms have put my life on hold. There is no enjoyment left in my life. I do not feel like joining my friends for any outing or attending any event. I hate the sympathy looks given to me by others!

How does the future look like?

The symptoms caused due to Yaws may become worse if the disease progresses to the tertiary phase. It may cause multiple skin lesions and an irreversible destruction of the bones and cartilage. 

What are the risk factors?

The risk of Yaws is higher in the individuals residing in the underdeveloped countries due to the lack of hygienic conditions. It may also occur in the individuals having a low immunity due to a chronic debilitating disorder or any immunological disease. I think I might have contracted this infection due to my negligence and not taking proper precautions to take care of my skin.

The causes and evolution of Yaws

Yaws usually causes a painless nodule in the skin initially, which enlarges to become a wart-like eruption. This is how Yaws made itself evident on my skin. Within the next 5 to 6 months, I developed several similar lesions all over the body.

Now, the disease has progressed to affect my bones, and joints. The skin lesions have begun to ulcerate, though some of them have healed. The doctor has informed me that the skin lesions and other symptoms may persist for 5 to 6 years with periods of exacerbations and remissions. However, it may also lead to the tertiary phase and cause widespread joint, bone, and soft tissue destruction.

What are the psychological effects when you have Yaws?

The unpredictable course of this disease has put me in a dilemma. I am scared of taking up any opportunity that could have helped me further my career ambitions. I would like to plan my career in such a way that any new assignment I take up is successful. However, I have lost self-confidence due to Yaws. I am not sure how the clients will react to my changed appearance. I certainly cannot make the first good impression with so many lesions on my skin. Because of these factors, my life has become uncertain. I am not sure where it is heading!  

Topics: Yaws

Dr. Jyothi Shenoy

Written by Dr. Jyothi Shenoy

Dr. Jyothi Shenoy is a doctor having a clinical experience of more than 15 years. She has an expertise in treating acute and chronic diseases like obesity, IBS, asthma, arthritis, Autism, ADHD, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, allergies, cancer, infections, and skin diseases. She believes in treating the patients in a holistic manner. She aims at educating the patients about the illness and providing tips related to their lifestyle and diet to ensure a long-term relief from the disease and preventing its recurrence.