The Fact of Fingerprints


Is this a Paul Simon song, or is it a Los Lobos song? Who can say?

Of all the symptoms I’ve experienced over the past six years, fingerprint destruction has to be the weirdest.

I first heard it mentioned as something that happens in ME/CFS within the first couple years I was ill. I remember looking at my fingertips, which looked fine to me, and thinking to myself that this must belong with the WAKE UP SHEEPLE people.

When I went to see Cheney last year, during the physical exam he did, he said to his assistant, “One to two plus fingerprint changes.” So I asked him what he was seeing, because I still didn’t know what he was looking at. He told me the horizontal lines across my fingerprints were what he was noting, and that the degree to which I had them wasn’t normal. At the time, I still didn’t really see what he was seeing. I did know that since I’ve been ill, I’ve developed a permanent case of “prune hands.” My fingers have vertical creases that make them always look like I’ve just gotten out of the bathtub.

At right is a slide from a talk given by Dr. Cheney at the 2010 Invest in ME conference, in which he theorizes that the loss of fingerprints is caused by a high degree of oxidative stress and/or immune activation, both of which occur in ME/CFS. Apparently, immune activation can produce elastase and MMP-9, the former of which breaks down elastin (which is what gives skin its elastic quality) and the latter of which breaks down collagen.

Now I see it. My fingertips look exactly like that.

It’s actually a bit uncomfortable to use the trackpad on my laptop. I don’t know if it’s because my fingertips are so smooth or because of changes in the elastin and collagen, but it doesn’t feel good to slide my fingers along the surface of the trackpad, and that didn’t use to be the case.

Additionally: I bought this laptop in 2007. It has a fingerprint scanner you can use to log in. I set it up when I first got the machine, and I never use it, because I have an admin account that you log into with a password rather than a fingerprint scan. But the other day, I couldn’t get into my usual admin account, so I went to log in using the fingerprint scanner.

No matter how many times I tried to scan my finger, I couldn’t get it to work.

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27 Responses to The Fact of Fingerprints

  1. Pat says:

    Yup, I tried to joke with Dr. Cheney that between the fingerprint degradation and the additional DNA for those who’ve received stem cell infusions, PWC’s would make good bank robbers except that our brains wouldn’t work (I couldn’t *think* how to word what I meant, so Dr. Cheney finished my thought… “well enough to find the door out.”)!

    • Jocelyn says:

      Wow, Pat, you got a joke out of him? We had concluded that he had no “humor” setting…couldn’t get him to crack a smile during the entire office visit either year. I joked during the echocardiogram (while repeatedly rubbing things on my left arm) that this was the worst spa treatment I’d ever received. I suppose we’re not paying him to laugh at our jokes but to be a medical genius.

  2. You know I’ve been wondering about these little lines on my finger tips and I also have long lines long the undersides of my fingers. I thought it was like a terminal case of dry skin (even though my skin there isn’t dry) or to do with ezcma. I never would have made an ME connection.

    This is fascinating. Thanks for sharing. As I’ll almost certainly never get to see a doc like Dr Cheney I never would have made the connection.

  3. onirical says:

    My fingertips have felt sensitive like they had been ‘paper sanded’ and the lines seemed to be fading. After checking I have these little horizontal marks on some fingers too.
    Really interesting. Thanks for that Jocelyn!

  4. Rene says:

    I went through American customs several years ago and no matter how hard I pressed they couldn’t get a fingerprint out of me. They looked at me with disgust

  5. Maxine Middleton says:

    How very interesting, I definitely find the touch pad uncomfortable & have noticed the lack of defined fingerprints ie very smooth. When I am next out of my darkened room I will have a closer look

  6. hiddenlives says:

    I’m so glad you published the photos! I’ve heard about this for -well, I can’t remember how long but a good part of the 20+ years I’ve had this disease -but never understood exactly what it was that changed.

    My fingerprints look like this too!

    My mother, who had every type of arthritis known to humans, including some real oddball types – autoimmune, you know – told me once that her doc said he’d never seen fingerprints as worn as hers, she must have worked very hard. She did work hard keeping our home together – but now that I put it in this context, I have to wonder…was it the auto-immune stuff?

    We have a long history in my family of auto-immune diseases…even unto my daughter now who has rheumatoid arthritis.

    Thanks again for the photos…I always wondered what was meant by fingerprint changes.

    Peace.

    • Jocelyn says:

      This is shocking but yet not shocking at all, how many of us are recognizing it in ourselves. That’s so interesting about your mom. You know, Chimp has rheumatoid arthritis – ankylosing spondylitis – that came on when he was a teenager, and I wondered aloud to him the other day if it will prove to have something to do with a retrovirus. There is already evidence, apparently, that a viral insult can contribute to setting it in motion. He knows his dad has the HLA-B27 antigen, and his family has a generations-long streak of “bad backs.”

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  8. Tink says:

    Just arrived at your blog via the posting about the Chase giving fraud and thought it was so interesting I had to read the archives to get to know you a bit.

    About the fingerprints. I’m an immigrant from Europe to the US. I first had my prints scanned in 2002 for the immigration service. We left that year to live for 3 years in France and came back to the USA end 2005. The year I became bedridden and I have been I’ll since 1970’s.

    Imagine the stir I caused at the airport at immigration when my prints didn’t matched anymore! Luckily I came prepared, I had researc and articles printed out plus a letter from a UK ME physician explaining this strange effect. I was taken to a room that looked very much of a jail, separated from my husband, who was being interviewed in another room. Thank God I requested wheelchair service otherwise I could not have made it. My husband called his employer’s lawyers office and requested help. They also handled our visas and that seemed to help. After a couple of exhausting hours in which I became incredibly bitchy( my husband knows I get like this when coming across people who can’t think outside the box and he was sussing me what made it only worse :-)) they let us go. Which was a small wonder due to the fact that in my adrenaline rush I was starring to give smart ass answer and making bitchy remarks. Not good. When dealing with officials you better keep a low profile but I hate being treated like a criminal, I didn’t ask for this either.
    That was my adventure with the disappearing fingerprints. 🙂

    If I ever have to go through immigration again we will have the same problem. I applied at our embassy for a new passport because mine was about to expire and there also were a different set of fingerprints. Luckily I was able to smooth that out very easily. 🙂

    Thanks for a wonderful blog Jocelyn, I always wondered what a Cheney treatment would look like wrt medicine, well, now I now. What surprised me was the lack of enzymes in your daily meds. I guess Cheney is not a fan. While I take about the same amount I have at least 4 different kind of enzymes to break the biofilm of the virus.

    Now I’m off to read some more.

  9. Pat says:

    I am also impressed by Jocelyn’s blog. She understands this disease better than I, ‘tho I, like Tink, have been sick since the ‘70s.

    Dr. Cheney says there are 2 types of fingerprint degradation in PWCs–smoothing (as if filed down) and tic-tac-toe lines (or whatever the term, as if someone had taken a scalpel and scratched horizontally and vertically).

    I sympathize with you, Tink, about the stoopid post-9/11 airport and immigration “security” harassment (not to mention other abuses of civil rights by other govmint entities).

    Dr. Cheney does consider the gut as a lead dysfunctional system contributing to the profile of this disease. And he speaks of the gut biofilm that needs to be penetrated and dispersed, such as by olive oil, and the good flora replenished by fermented foods rich in probiotics. [If I have this wrong, please correct me!] And he advocates the use of high-quality digestive enzymes and proteolytic enzymes, etc.

  10. julia says:

    i have these fingerprints as well. (cfs since 1998, ugh). i remember reading about them in osler’s web.

    what’s interesting is that my (non-cfs) mother mentioned recently that she can’t do fingerprint ID at her work because she has liney fingers. i looked at her fingers and they’re like mine–faded fingerprints, lines scoring the prints both horizontal and vertical. she has autoimmune hormonal and autonomic probs, tho not cfs. i thought it was curious, but she thinks it’s just a fluke.

    off-topic, you’d mentioned having difficulty sitting up to type on mefi–have you tried anything like this? http://www.lapgenie.com/ i can barely sit up, so it really helps me stay connected to the world.

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    • Jocelyn says:

      Yep, Andrea, I’m already familiar with it – have learned about it since I wrote this entry. It doesn’t surprise me at all that a condition that leads to gut inflammation has the same outward sign as other types of inflammation do. Cheney said when he looked at my fingerprints that he talked to a rheumatologist who said he saw the same sign in people with lupus as well, which is of course another disease with a lot of inflammation.

  12. mike staffieri says:

    the villi in your intestinal tract has been worn to the base…hence the lines on your fingerprints…go gluten free for the rest of your life and eat foods with butryic acid like ghee

    • Jocelyn says:

      Mike, gluten intolerance was one of the very first things I investigated when I fell ill. I tested negative and despite that, I ate gluten-free religiously for almost a year to see if it would help. It seemed to make no difference in how I felt at all. (And I’ve been eating more ghee than your average American for a good 17 years, since I started learning to cook Indian food in the mid-90s!) Dr. Cheney has told me that these lines are an indication of inflammation and that they are seen in more diseases than just CFS and celiac.

  13. Sara says:

    Hello Jocelyn, I just discovered your blog. I’m sick of CFS since 6 years ago. I also have lines on the fingers and vertical grooves. I didn’t know why, thank you,
    You are still in treatment with Dr. De Meirleir? I’ll go visit him in two months for the first time, I can be hopeful?

    • Jocelyn says:

      Welcome, Sara. Sorry to hear that you too are sick. I am actually a patient of Dr. Cheney’s. Dr. De Meirleir is very well-regarded as well – I expect he will prove helpful to you.

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  15. Andrew says:

    Hi, I have Lyme disease for the past 4 months, and these lines only started forming since I caught the Lyme disease. They are both vertical and horizontal lines. I thought it was because the bacteria would break down proteins in that area of the skin. They typically eat it away in a line shape because they are long spiral shaped bacteria. These horizontal and vertical lines have since formed on every single finger tip that I have. So all 10 fingers have them now. That was my thought.

  16. JD says:

    Hi. Is this blog still active? I stumbled on it and was shocked to see it reference ME/CFS. Would love to connect with others who have it and it’s autoimmune friends.

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