Woman says she contracted deadly flesh-eating bacteria after getting a manicure at a nail salon: 'I'm just lucky to be alive'

A woman in Tennessee claimed she almost lost her hand due to contracting flesh-eating bacteria after getting a manicure at a nail salon in Knoxville.

Jayne Sharp told CBS affiliate WTVF that she didn't think anything of it when she "got poked in the thumb," but a couple of hours after she left the salon, her thumb started throbbing. From there, the infection only escalated.

Soon, she started experiencing flu-like symptoms, and after speaking to her daughter who is a registered nurse, she decided to go to the doctor, where a nurse practitioner used a marker to track her swelling and sent her home.

10 PHOTOS
10 strange skin problems that may signal a disease
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10 strange skin problems that may signal a disease

You're breaking out like crazy

Adult acne is so common (here’s why—and how best to treat it), but when it’s a fairly new development, pay attention. Skin changes like acne can be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance that affects 10 million women worldwide. When a woman’s body makes excess “male” hormones called androgens, it’s often accompanied by an increase in acne. Your doctor may suspect PCOS if you have acne along with irregular periods or acne that flares up just before your period, says Dr. Reynolds.

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You notice lots of skin tags popping up

A few of these skin growths here or there is normal, but numerous skin tags that begin popping up could indicate type 2 diabetes. They’re spurred on by insulin-like growth factor 1, a protein involved in diabetes that stimulates skin overgrowth, says Rachel Reynolds, MD, a dermatologist with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Other signs of type 2 include increased thirst, slow healing wounds, and increased hunger. Here are more silent symptoms of diabetes you might be missing.

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You've developed a weird rash

Something benign like new laundry detergent or metal buttons on your pants can be behind a new rash, but so can tick bites. Five different types of tick diseases cause telltale skin rashes, from the bullseye of Lyme and STARI (southern tick-associated rash illness) to small pink spots dotting wrists, forearms, and ankles that are associated with Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Watch out for such skin changes if you’ve been camping, hiking, or spending time outdoors in known tick areas. Find a tick attached to you? Here’s how to safely remove it.

You have a weird rash, Part II

Starting a new medication always comes with potential reactions. One serious problem: an allergy called “drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms” or DRESS syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition marked by an inflammation of the liver, heart, and lungs, says dermatologist Cindy Owen in a press release from the American Academy of Dermatology. Even more confusing: This rash can appear two to eight weeks after starting the med. Watch out if you have a rash accompanied by fever or swelling of lymph nodes.

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You're so, so itchy

If you have dry skin—especially in the winter months—you may bet used to feeling itchy. But when a good moisturizer provides no relief, it could be something more serious than dry skin. Itchiness can be caused by some cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, as well as liver disease and kidney failure. If itching is all over your body, is severe, comes out of nowhere, or is so bad you’re losing sleep because you’re so uncomfortable, talk to your doctor, says Dr. Reynolds. Itchiness with night sweats, fevers, and unexplained weight loss are other red flag symptoms, she says. For run of the mill itchy skin, try these home remedies.

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There are tender red bumps under your skin

While the gut and skin may not seem all that connected, they are—check out these 21 secrets your gut is trying to tell you. Inflammatory conditions like irritable bowel disease (IBD) can show up on your skin. Painful red nodules may appear on your legs; they’ll also feel deep in the surface of the skin, explains Dr. Reynolds. The condition is called erythema nodosum and may appear during a flare-up of symptoms, such as persistent diarrhea or bloody stool. Blood in your poop may sound frightening, but it’s one of those scary health symptoms that can turn out to be harmless.

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Your skin is sweaty and ruddy

Unless you’re relaxing in a sauna or living the tropics, this may be a sign of an overactive thyroid. In people who have hyperthyroidism, their metabolism is revved up. This can translate to being hot and flushed (particularly when no one else in the room is). Your doctor should question you about other symptoms that could signal thyroid dysfunction, like weight loss or difficulty sleeping. Here’s how to know when to get your thyroid levels checked.

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Your lower legs are swollen and red

When someone is suffering from congestive heart failure, their weakened heart struggles to keep the blood moving against the pull of gravity. As a result, the blood can pool in your legs, explains Dr. High. Seeing deep lines after taking off your socks is another sign, he says. That said, congestive heart failure is most likely to affect the elderly; if you’re a young person and have sock lines, your socks just might be too small. (Sounds funny, but it’s true!) Catch the early signs of heart failure.

You have yellow bumps underneath your skin

When seen on joints, hands, feet, and glutes, yellow bumps may be fat buildup under the skin. Called xanthomas, these bumps are a sign that your cholesterol or other blood fats are too high; they can also indicate diabetes, pancreatitis, and even some cancers.

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Think of the obvious first

Though skin problems can be a sign of a more serious illness, when saddled with dry skin or itchiness, don’t jump to a worst-case scenario, says Dr. High. If you’re itchy, first try a moisturizer. If you get hives, take an antihistamine or try a hydrocortisone cream. Then if the problem doesn’t clear up quickly, it may be time to see your doctor.

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"She had called me at 4 o'clock, awoke me, and asked me how that streak looked and it was all the way up past my elbow," Sharp said. 

From there, she was rushed to the emergency room where she was told by doctors that she had contracted a rare, but deadly flesh-eating bacterial infection called necrotizing fasciitis, CBS Los Angeles reported.

The CDC describes the infection as one "that spreads quickly in the body and can cause death," and says rapid use of antibiotics and surgery are key to stopping it.

Sharp underwent several surgeries in Knoxville and Nashville, and said it took months for her to feel normal, although her thumb is still a little numb. "The doctors told us had I waited another hour, it might not be a good situation," Sharp told WTVF. 

"I'm just lucky to be alive," she told CBS.

Sharp is currently pursuing legal action against the salon.

While most nail salons are safe, there are a few things customers can look for to make sure a salon is up to code. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, customers should first look around to see if the salon is kept neat and clean, and if technicians are washing their hands or changing their gloves before each service. They can also ask the salon how instruments are kept clean—all tools should be disposed or sanitized after each use—and check for a technician's license.

Before entering the salon, customers can take extra precaution and avoid shaving their legs 24 hours before a pedicure. Any small cuts or wounds could be susceptible to infection, which is also why technicians should never use a sharp blade to cut cuticles or remove calluses.

If all looks good, but cleanliness is still a concern, customers can also buy their own set of nail tools to be used at the salon.

10 PHOTOS
10 subtle signs of disease your feet can reveal
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10 subtle signs of disease your feet can reveal

Dry, flaky feet

It could be: Thyroid problems, especially if moisturizer doesn’t help. When the thyroid gland (the butterfly-shaped gland in the base of your neck) goes on the fritz, it doesn’t properly produce thyroid hormones, which control metabolic rate, blood pressure, tissue growth, and skeletal and nervous system development. “Thyroid problems cause severe dryness of the skin,” says Marlene Reid, DPM, a foot specialist in Naperville, Illinois. “When we see cracking on the feet, or if moisturizer doesn’t improve dryness over a few days, we usually refer patients to their primary doctor to make sure their thyroids are OK.” Brittle toenails can also signal thyroid complications. Don't miss these other 13 silent signs of a thyroid problem

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Bald toes

It could be: Arterial disease. If the fuzz on your toes suddenly disappears, it could signal poor blood circulation caused by peripheral arterial disease (PAD). “Signs of PAD can include decreased hair growth on the feet and ankles, purplish toes, and thin or shiny skin,” says Suzanne Fuchs, DPM, a podiatric surgeon at North Shore University Hospital in New York. A buildup of plaque in the leg arteries, PAD affects about 8 million Americans. Symptoms are subtle, but doctors can check for a healthy pulse in the foot or spot PAD on an X-ray. “If I take an X-ray of a broken foot, and I see a hardening of the arteries, 99 percent of the time, the same thing is happening in the heart blood vessels,” says Gary A. Pichney, DPM, a podiatric surgeon of The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy Medical Center. (These 11 tests detect silent heart diseases.)

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Ulcers that don't heal

It could be: Diabetes. Uncontrolled glucose levels can damage nerves and cause poor circulation, so blood doesn’t reach the feet. When blood doesn’t get to a wound caused by, say, irritating shoes, the skin doesn’t heal properly. “Many, many people with diabetes are diagnosed first because of foot problems,” says Reid. Other signs of diabetes may include tingling or numbness of the feet. Ask your doctor about getting your blood sugar levels tested. Memorize these 12 foot care tips you should follow if you have diabetes

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Englarged, painful big toe

It could be: What you ate. Gorged on wine and steak? The painful aftermath could be gout, a type of arthritis that usually affects the joint of the big toe. (Here are some natural remedies for the pain and swelling.) Foods high in purine, a chemical compound found in red meats, fish, and certain alcohol, can trigger an attack by raising levels of uric acid in the body. Uric acid is normally excreted through urine, but is overproduced or under-excreted in some people. “You’ll see the deposition of the uric acid in the joint, most commonly the big toe or the ankle,” says Bob Baravarian, DPM, a podiatric foot and ankle specialist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “The patient will wake up with a hard, red, swollen joint. It’s extremely painful.” A doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs for short-term relief and suggest a low-purine diet for long-term prevention. Whether you have gout or not, learn how foot doctors prevent foot problems when wearing sandals

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Tiny, red lines under the toenail

It could be: A heart infection. Red streaks underneath the toenails or fingernails could be broken blood vessels known as splinter hemorrhages. These occur when small blood clots damage the tiny capillaries under the nails. They can signal endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s inner lining. People who have an existing heart condition, have received a pacemaker, or who have chronically suppressed immune systems (such as cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, HIV patients, and diabetes patients) are at higher risk of developing endocarditis. The infection can result in heart failure if left untreated. If you notice splinter hemorrhages on your toenails or fingernails, and haven’t experienced any recent trauma to the nail, see your doctor to check your heart and blood circulation. Learn what else your natural nail color says about your health.

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Clubbing

It could be: Lung cancer or heart disease. Another symptom that appears in both toes and fingers, clubbing is often associated with lung cancer, chronic lung infection, heart disease, or intestinal disease. Lung cancer and heart disease decrease vascular resistance, which means blood flow to the small arteries in the toenails and fingertips will increase. Tissue swells and results in the “clubbed” appearance (rounder, wider fingers and toes). Though patients are typically aware they have a disease that is causing the clubbing, it’s best to get checked if you see any abnormalities. Don't ignore these other silent signs of major health problems.

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Pitted toenails

It could be: Psoriasis. If you find tiny holes, grooves, or ridges in your toenails, you may have nail psoriasis. Though most people who experience nail psoriasis also have skin psoriasis (an autoimmune disease that makes skin patchy and irritated), 5 percent of people with nail psoriasis aren’t affected elsewhere. “If you’ve never been diagnosed with psoriasis, but your toenails have little pits in them, you should get them checked out,” says Pichney. Other symptoms include white patches and horizontal lines across the nails. To treat psoriasis, your doctor may prescribe topical creams or steroids to be injected under the nail. Learn more about the skin care routine dermatologists recommend for psoriasis.

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Spooned nails

It could be: Anemia or lupus. Do you have a depression in the toenail deep enough to hold a water droplet? Also known as koilonychias, spoon-shaped toenails or fingernails can indicate iron deficiency, as well as hemochromatosis (overproduction of iron), Raynaud’s disease (which affects blood supply to the fingers and toes), and sometimes lupus (an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks cells, tissues, and organs). Spooned nails occasionally appear in infants, but normalize in the first few years of life. If you notice spooning, contact your physician, who will administer a blood test to identify the exact cause. Check out these other things your nails reveal about your health.

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A straight line under your toenails

It could be: Skin cancer. A dark, vertical line underneath a toenail could be acral lentiginous melanoma, or hidden melanoma—a form of the skin cancer that appears on obscure body parts. (Other hidden melanomas include eye melanoma and mouth melanoma.) “It will be a black line from the base of your nail to the end of the nail,” says Pichney. “It should be seen by a podiatrist or dermatologist. You want to make sure it’s not fungus, which is usually yellow brown and sporadic throughout the whole nail.”  Although only 5 percent of all diagnosed melanoma cases are the hidden kind, hidden melanoma is the most common type in dark-skinned people. Here are other skin cancer symptoms that aren't on your skin

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A suddenly high arch

It could be: Nerve damage. “Most high-arched feet are associated with some form of underlying neuromuscular condition,” says Pichney. “If someone has thinning of the arch muscles in the foot, it could be an indication of a neurological condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT).” An inherited disorder that damages the peripheral nerves (those outside the brain and spinal cords), CMT can also cause changes in gait, numbness in the feet, difficulty balancing, loss of muscles in the lower legs, and later on, similar symptoms in the arms and hands. See your doctor if you notice abnormalities. “For anything that’s different or changes when it comes to the foot, see your podiatrist right away,” says Reid. Also watch out for these sneaky ways your feet can mess with your sleep

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