Doc: Legitimate causes for fingerprint loss

Keith Roach
To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: Are there any medical conditions that can lead to loss of fingerprints?


Dear Anon.: There are several skin conditions that can lead to loss of fingerprints, with nonspecific dermatitis leading the list, according to a recent study. Other causes identified were primary hyperhidrosis, irritant contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, psoriasis and mechanical abrasion.

Criminals have tried countless methods to change or remove fingerprints, without much success. However, a journal article in 2017 noted that individuals treated with the cancer chemotherapy drug capecitabine (usually used for breast or colon cancer) may have a side effect called “hand-foot syndrome,” which sometimes can lead to loss of fingerprints. Most people don’t notice it, unless their fingerprints are necessary for international travel or for security documents (and now, even your phone). As fingerprints become used more often, it’s important to know about this potential side effect.

I am confident few criminals will take toxic doses of chemotherapy in hopes of this unusual side effect, which is only occasionally permanent.

Dear Dr. Roach: Can a stent be used in an artery that is 80 percent clogged? I am in good health, but at age 87, I do not want to have invasive surgery.


Dear E.F.S.: In someone who is 87, using a stent generally is preferable to surgery.

In the stent procedure, the artery in the heart is opened by placing a catheter in the heart (usually through the femoral artery in the groin) and using a balloon or a cutting device to open up the blockage, which is a combination of cholesterol, fibrous tissue and calcium. Even if an artery is 99 percent blocked, it usually can be opened via the catheter. The stent then is placed to help keep the artery open.

Some stents are bare metal; others, called “drug-eluting stents,” have medication embedded in the stent lining, which elutes (is released) over months. Only a cardiologist can say whether an individual lesion is amenable to stenting and what the best technique is.

Far fewer bypass surgeries — that is, open heart surgery, where a clogged artery is replaced using a blood vessel taken from elsewhere in the body — are performed now than 10 or 20 years ago. This is because of better medical treatment and because of advances in both the procedure and the materials used.

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