CUTANEOUS horns might be one of the most terrifying skin conditions known to medicine, where painful horns burst out of petrified patients’ bodies.
Shyam Lal Yadav had a four-inch “devil horn” sprouting from the top of his head – and he’s not the only one to end up with the illness.
The 74-year-old Indian farmer hit his head a few years ago after which the horn started growing.
Shyam got his barber to cut it for years until it became clear the growth needed serious medical attention and he ultimately opted to have it surgically removed.
But he’s not the only patient to suffer from a cutaneous horn, which is a surprisingly common skin problem.
While most of the pictures of extreme cases are from abroad, doctors in Britain see such cases all the time.
Cutaneous horns are skin tumours that are made of keratin — the same protein which makes up hair, nails and hooves.
They’re referred to as “horns” because they often look like the horns of certain animals, but they can even appear like wood or even coral.
Most of the growths are benign, but they’re sometimes cancerous or precancerous and need to be treated and they can crop up in different places around the body — including the penis.
Here we reveal some of the famous cases of the condition.
A pensioner was called the “unicorn woman” because of a 13cm cutaneous horn that grew out of the middle of her forehead, which began forming in 2013.
Liang Xiuzhen was 87 when she was treated for the bizarre ailment.
Her son, Wang Chaojun, said the horn started out looking like a black mole about eight years earlier.
He said: “My mother complained about this mole-like growth on her head that itched all the time. We found ways to cure her itch using traditional Chinese medicine, and then left it be.”
But when she accidentally “broke” the horn it started growing faster and became painful, occasionally bleeding and stopping Liang sleeping.
Doctors tend to treat patients by surgically removing the horn, often with a sterile razor.
Follow-up treatment — including radiation therapy and chemo — might be necessary if there’s an underlying condition.
But Liang’s family were reluctant to put her in for surgery because of her age.
It’s not known what happened to her after.
‘Difficulty during sex’
Although hornlike growths can develop because of a hereditary skin disease, they’ve also been known to be triggered by surgery.
One 60-year-old man in India had to have surgery to repair his urethra after it became too constricted for him to urinate.
To his horror, two months on from the operation he had to go back to the doctors’ — because a cutaneous horn was growing from the tip of his penis.
Doctors cut it off but the nightmare continued when the horn grew back a month later, reaching a full inch in length.
Medics said the terrible growth was caused by his recent surgery.
In a report on the unsettling case in the British Medical Journal, they wrote: “The patients usually seek treatment due to disfigurement and difficulty during sexual intercourse.”
They continued: “It is bothersome to the patients, sometimes greatly affecting their sexual life.”
Two horns sprouted aged 101
Zhang Ruifang was 101 when two horns began sprouting from her forehead.
She reportedly liked the horns and refused to have them surgically removed.
Dr Ross Perry of Cosmedics skin clinic explains that cutaneous horns aren’t very well understood.
He told Sun Online: “Each horn is individual and each one is different on the cause.
“Sometimes they are the classic cutaneous horn which is on the face or the hands and so forth and are primarily related to sun damage.
“Some people can get a viral warty lesion that looks like a definitive cutaneous horn as it were, but is often made from keratin from a wart virus as opposed to a non-wart-virus cutaneous horn.
“We can often find in areas of trauma if you’ve had previous warts that those can come out in that area.
“I suppose if you’ve got a poor-healing wound or an area that’s repeatedly traumatised then in theory you can probably have a mechanism where you could get a horn from that as well.”
Although it might seem like an unusual affliction, cutaneous horns are fairly common in Britain, cropping up in every dermatology unit in the UK.
Dr Perry explained: “You go to any skin cancer or dermatology unit and they’re pretty common.
“You would certainly see four or five a month really, it’s not that rare.”
‘I try to hide it beneath a hat’
In 2011, Huang Yuanfan was blighted by the unexpected growth of a three-inch cutaneous horn on the top of his head.
The 84-year-old from southern China said there was nothing he could do stop it growing.
He said: “I tried picking at it and even filing it but nothing changed it. The horn just kept getting bigger.
“Doctors says they don’t know what caused it but if they try to take it off it will just come back.
“I try to hide it beneath a hat but if it gets much longer it will be sticking out the top.”
But not everyone tries to cover their horn.
Hu Xiaomao was 96 when an inch-long horn sprouted out of his right cheek near his ear.
The growth curled like a goats and was said to become something of a local attraction in Moganshan Township in East China.
Incredibly, Dr Perry says it’s common that patients will often leave horns untreated for years before seeking help.
He explained: “Patients tend not to do anything about them for years and years because they’re not worrisome or bothersome.
“That’s why they often grow — people don’t tend do anything about them until they become very unsightly or very annoying.”
‘I asked the doctors to cut off my hands’
A related condition is the extremely rare “treeman syndrome” where patients can develop many cutaneous horn-like growths.
Unlike a cutaneous horn proper, treeman syndrome is a genetic skin disorder which leads to a huge number of keratin growths instead of just one.
Abul Bajandar, who is dubbed the “Tree Man of Bangladesh”, has even begged doctors to amputate his hands because he’s in such pain.
Since he was a child, Abul developed warts on his skin which over the course of two decades have completely consumed his hands and feet.
He’s already had 25 operations to remove the growths on both his hands, but they’ve continued to spread forming branch-like bark.
In June he said: “I cannot bear the pain anymore, I can’t sleep at night.
“I asked the doctors to cut off my hands so I can at least get some relief”.
Abul’s inherited condition, epidermodysplasia verruciformis, leads to patients being chronically infected with human papillomavirus (HPV).
There’s only ever been around 200 recorded cases of treeman syndrome.
Abul Bajandar’s hands were completely covered in horn-like growths such that they looked like tree bark
And in one tragic case of treeman syndrome, an Indonesian dad ultimately lost his life as horns engulfed his body.
Dede Koswara’s ordeal began when he was just 15 years old and he cut his knee, leading to a wart on his lower leg which spread uncontrollably.
Heartbreakingly, his wife of ten years left him because he couldn’t support their family with two kids because he was debilitated.
He was forced to give up work as a fisherman and builder and barely made a living in a travelling freak show.
Despite having six kilograms of the horns cut off from his body in 2008, they kept coming back, and he needed more operations to manage the spreading lesions.
But complications from his extreme case eventually cost him his life at the age of 45 in 2016.
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Earlier this year, a 43-year-old mum broke down in tears as she had a pork-scratching-style cutaneous horn removed from her head by Dr Pimple Popper.
The patient named Lisa said she’d even delayed her wedding plans because of how self-conscious the horn made her feel.
She said: “Usually when you get married you’re standing with your back to them.
“It (the horn) is the first thing I think they’re going to see.”
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