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Savannah Fulkerson cannot spend time in the sun without causing injury to her skin. (KABC-TV)(LOS ANGELES) -- Around the time Savannah Fulkerson turned 4, she became unable to spend any length of time outdoors.

“We’d be outside about 20 minutes or so … she’d say, ‘I burn!’” recalled Savannah’s mother Andrea Fulkerson. Fulkerson remembers Savannah in so much pain she had “uncontrollable screaming like she got hit by a car.”

“She would just cry for hours on end,” said Fulkerson.

For years Fulkerson took her daughter to multiple pediatricians and other specialists looking for a cause. Fulkerson said that doctors told her that Savannah had eczema, even though she was left blister-like scars on her hands from the sun.

“It’s like she’s allergic to the sun,” Fulkerson remembers telling the doctors when they saw Savannah. Eventually after five years of tests and questions, the family were finally able to get help at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, where Savannah was diagnosed with a rare condition called Erythropoietic Protoporphyria or EPP.

The genetic condition affects a component of blood cells that can lead to toxic compounds called protoporphyrin being released. These compounds can make the patient extremely sensitive to sunlight. It's not a true allergy because the immune system is involved in the extreme reaction to sunlight.

Patients often report swelling, redness of the skin or a burning sensation in sunlight according to the American Porphyria Foundation.

Savannah’s physician, Dr. Minnelly Luu, of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles told ABC News affiliate KABC-TV that rare disease these “chemical reactions produce damage in the skin as well as other organs.”

Fulkerson said it was a relief to finally have Savannah’s diagnosis even though there is no cure approved. She said now that she knows the diagnosis, she can protect Savannah from the sun.

Now age 11, Savannah is able to be on the cheerleading squad and participate in gymnastics as long as practices are indoors. Last year she traveled to meet another girl with the rare condition.

"She loved it," Fulkerson said of Savannah. "She said she didn’t have to explain anything ... They have fun together and don’t have to explain anything."

But inspite of the progress she's made Savannah still faces challenges. During recess and lunch Savannah can't be with other children outside. When she wants to swim she has to wait till the sun goes down to jump in the water.

"I wish they would find a cure, because I don't like living with this. It's really hard," Savannah Fulkerson told KABC-TV.


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Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Recent research has pointed to the effectiveness of weight loss surgeries like gastric bypass and laparoscopic banding in treating diabetes. Now, a new study suggests that these surgical approaches may even be more effective at eliminating the disease than the tried-and-true methods of lifestyle intervention -- in other words, diet and exercise.

Researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial in which they assigned obese patients with type 2 diabetes to either get gastric bypass with lifestyle intervention for two years, laparoscopic banding with a similar period of lifestyle intervention, or lifestyle intervention alone.

They found that among those who received the surgical interventions, a significant portion were free of diabetes after three years. None of those who got the lifestyle interventions alone, however, achieved this feat.

This study, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery, was the first of its kind to study the effects of surgical interventions of weight loss for up to three years.

It is worth noting that in order to be eligible for weight loss surgery, a patient must either have a body mass index (BMI) over 40, have a BMI from 35-40 with other weight-related conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure, or have a BMI from 30-34.9 with severe weight-related conditions. This means that not all patients would qualify for these surgical interventions.

Also, previous studies have shown that patients whose diabetes has been eliminated after bariatric surgery can potentially relapse by the five-year follow-up mark.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In recent years, the media has been replete with warnings from medical authorities concerning the dangers of indoor tanning beds -- dangers that include skin cancer, wrinkles and potentially blinding eye conditions.

Despite this, a new study -- published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Dermatology -- using data from a large nationally representative survey shows that the reported rate of use of indoor tanning beds did not decrease much between 2010 and 2013.

Researchers looked at data on approximately 60,000 people over these three years, and they found that the rate of adults reporting indoor tanning went from 5.5 percent to 4.2 percent in this period -- meaning that nearly four out of five adults who tanned indoors in 2010 still did in 2013.

In certain age and gender groups, no significant changes were seen at all.

Researchers postulate that the small reductions in indoor tanning rates might be attributed to an increased awareness of harm and higher excise tax on indoor tanning -- but it is clear that more awareness is needed.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- This summer some sunbathers are getting a little creative by trying their hand with “sunburn” art.

On social media people can be found using sunblock or temporary tattoos to create “artful” sunburns. But experts cringe at the practice, warning that any sunburn can lead to damage and increased chance of skin cancer.

“This is where popular culture is clashing with medical advice,” said Dr. Barney Kenet, a New York-based dermatologist. “It’s really obvious that sunburn does two things to you: it gives you lines and freckles and wrinkles and it also causes skin cancer especially melanoma.”

Kenet said that if people were really aiming to have a good clean example of sunburn “art” they may be inclined to stay out in the sun longer.

“Then there’s the motivation for getting a good burn,” he explained. “The practice is tempting them to burn even worse.”

Kenet said worryingly those who try to get a good “sunburn art” could be even more at risk for melanoma than those who are exposed to lower levels of sunlight overtime, such as someone who works in the sun.

Kenet explained that a deep burn for someone who is fair-skinned means that person will be at a higher likelihood of getting melanoma even though there may be less overall visible skin damage such as sunspots or wrinkles.

This holiday weekend, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying in the shade, wearing long-sleeved shirts to protect against UV rays and applying broad spectrum SPF throughout the day.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Monkey Business/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Are you sleepy-tired, or tired-tired?

When do you know whether your fatigue is caused by just a bad mattress, or some more severe and serious medical condition, like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Those who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are often treated with skepticism. Some people think it’s all “in your head.”

But researchers hope that more studies will help them treat people with this debilitating condition. It could be a daunting task.

In their commentary, the researchers note that the syndrome has 163 possible combinations of symptoms and up to two-and-a-half million people may suffer from it.

If you think you’re one of them, talk to your doctor. If she or he doesn’t have the answer, see another one --just don’t give up.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.





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