But the show has also ventured into more serious territory. Last week’s episode, for instance, highlighted a woman with a rare condition that makes one side of her body dramatically larger than the other .
And the series’ fourth episode, which aired Wednesday night, told the story of a woman named Diane, whose skin is covered in thousands of tiny, benign tumors because of a condition called neurofibromatosis.
Here’s a closer look at the episode.
Diane has a condition that causes benign tumors to grow all over her skin.
In an interview at the start of the episode, Diane explains that she has neurofibromatosis, or NF . That’s actually an umbrella term for three different conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic. All share a commonality, though: They’re genetic disorders that cause (usually) benign tumors to grow on nerve tissue .
Diane appears to have NF1, the type that makes soft, benign tumors (or neurofibromas) grow on or under the skin in most people who have it. It occurs in 1 in 3,000 to 4,000 people worldwide , according to the US National Library of Medicine (NLM).
The condition usually appears during childhood and could announce itself with a variety of other signs and symptoms , including “cafe-au-lait” birthmarks, freckles in the groin or armpits, bone deformities, a larger-than-average head, and short stature, the Mayo Clinic website explains. While some people with NF-1 have learning disabilities and ADHD , most with the condition have normal intelligence, the NLM website adds.
The biggest risk factor for NF is a family history of the disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic. That fits Diane’s case perfectly: Both her brother and her father have NF, too, she explains during the episode.
“I got my condition from my dad. As a child my skin wasn’t that bad. I had a very very mild case,” Diane says in the initial interview. “I didn’t start getting this until my late teens or early 20s. That’s when it started being more prevalent.”
The disorder can lead to physical issues and emotional distress.
NF1 can have some physical complications , including vision problems, heart problems, abnormally formed bones, and in some people, tumors that are cancerous instead of benign, according to the Mayo Clinic. But the appearance-related symptoms of the disease can also cause “cause anxiety and emotional distress , even if they’re not medically serious,” the Mayo Clinic website adds.
“This skin condition has really robbed me of my self esteem because I am so tired of people looking at me strangely,” Diane says. “This condition, it just robs you of everything.”
And in her consultation with Lee, Diane reveals another way that her NF1 has impacted her life.
“I’ve been to see dermatologists before and they said there’s a 50% chance your kids will have it,” she tells Lee. “So I never had kids myself because I didn’t want my kids to have it.” (That statistic is spot on: Any child has a 50% chance of inheriting NF1 from a parent who has it, according to the Mayo Clinic.)
Dr. Lee can’t cure Diane, but she does remove some of the tumors with scissors.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for NF1 , according to the NLM. But Lee finds one way to help: by physically removing some of the most bothersome bumps on Diane’s stomach.
“I’m trying to concentrate on the ones that really irritate her the most,” Lee says in the episode. “I do worry that the things that I do for Diane aren’t going to help her as much as I wish I could. Because I can’t cure this. I can’t make this go away. And my goal here is just to at least make her life more comfortable.”
To accomplish this, Lee cuts off the bumps with a pair of serrated scissors. Even after the neurofibromas have been numbed with anesthesia, however, Diane still finds the procedure painful.
“It was really surprising just how much that hurt. In fact, even more than I expected,” she says.
Lee also uses laser treatment to smooth a section of Diane’s face.
Lee then addresses a section of tumors on Diane’s chin.
“I think it’s really important to treat a person with neurofibromatosis on their face because this is really how they present themselves to the world,” Lee says. “More or less you can hide the ones on your body but you can’t hide the ones easily on your face.”
She uses a scalpel to shave down some of the chin bumps, then follows with a CO2 laser to resurface the skin.
“The way this laser works is by essentially burning a very, very thin layer of the skin and when you do this, it really kind of heals up nice and smoother,” Lee says. “It looks really scary but it can work really well.”
A month later, Diane says others have noticed the results.
In a follow-up interview, Diane says that others have noticed that she’s “had something done” to the neurofibromas on her face.She also thanks Lee for restoring some of her confidence.
“I’m going to cry because she’s given me back some self esteem,” Diane says in her final interview. “I thank her for that.”
Diane’s story highlights one of Lee’s core messages for fans.
Fans already know that Lee’s YouTube channel often highlights skin issues that are technically benign but still have negative impacts on a patient’s life. This is a deliberate effort, as Lee explained to INSIDER in an interview earlier this year .
“Dermatologists deal with fewer life-threatening emergencies compared to other medical specialties, however, this doesn’t mean that we don’t administer life-changing treatments or do life-changing surgeries,” Lee told INSIDER. “Patients who come to see me can be very vulnerable. They have an issue that they know isn’t life-threatening but surely threatens their mental and emotional well being.”
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