LIFESTYLE
13/12/2013 07:01 GMT

Woman's Use Of Nose Drops Turned Her Skin Silver - Now She's Trying To Warn People About Her Irreversible Condition

An American woman whose skin turned silver after using nose drops is warning people of the dangers of medicines containing the metal.

Rosemary Jacobs, 71, has lived with irreversible skin condition argyria for 60 years and it has blighted her life.

The retired pre-school teacher's skin started to turn metallic silver when she began taking nasal drops containing colloidal silver (CS) at the age of 11.

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Rosemary pictured aged 36

Four years later a skin biopsy revealed silver particles bound deep beneath her skin and she was diagnosed with argyria.

Rosemary, from Vermont, USA said: "When I was 11 years old, my mother mentioned to an ENT specialist that I always had a cold.

"He told me that it had to be allergies and prescribed nose drops that contained silver recommending I take them 'as needed'."

Rosemary took the nose drops whenever she had a stuffy nose and it was only until a nurse spotted her argyria that she saw a dermatologist and was diagnosed.

But in the 1950s no treatment was available so she was forced to live with the skin condition.

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She was subjected to cruel comments from strangers who would think she had a contagious disease and would cross the street when they saw her.

Rosemary, who lives alone and has never had a long term relationship said: "They told me my colour was permanent. It was devastating.

"I have not been a normal colour since and it has blighted my life.

"People point and stare, calling me names and telling me to take my Halloween make up off.

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Rosemary - how she looks now

"Some even say I look like the walking dead.

"I used to get asked where I was from and what languages I speak.

"It's really hurtful, even though I have looked this way for such a long time I still long to look 'normal'."

Ms Jacobs has even been discriminated against by employers who refused to hire her because of the way she looks.

An air hostess once tried to give her oxygen on a plane, after thinking the blood had drained from her face.

At 36, desperate to rid her body of it's silver hue, Rosemary underwent a skin dermabrasion, where the top layer of skin was removed, leaving it red raw.

Her face healed, but she was left with a pink and blotchy complexion with patches of grey still visible.

She said: "The dermabrasion didn't hurt at all, it just looked awful for a while afterwards. It took about six months to know what the final colour would be.

"I did it as an experiment, but I would never let anyone dermabrade my upper or lower eyelids so I knew that if it worked I'd end up looking like a raccoon, so basically still weird.

"I don't think I look much better now."

Now, after years of verbal abuse, cruel remarks and severe skin treatments, Rosemary is determined to raise awareness of the dangers of taking supplements and medicines containing silver.

Rosemary believes there has been an increase in dietary supplements containing CSP and says they should have warning labels about argyria.

She said: "Silver is still present in lots of products sold on the internet.

"Taking it can ruin your life and people need to know that.

"The change in my skin colour was so slow I didn't notice. My family and friends didn't notice either because they saw me every day.

"I didn't notice until it was too late."

There are a few dozen other cases of argyria worldwide. The most famous is Paul Karason, from California, known as the 'Pappa Smurf', who died of a heart attack in September this year.