By Karsen Buck

Hello, my name is Karsen Buck. I am 18 years old and I have been diagnosed with ectrodactyly-ectodermal dysyplasia-clefting (EEC) syndrome. Ectrodactyly is the condition of a split hand or cleft hand. Mine happens to be in my right hand where I was born with only four fingers, two fingers were deformed.

Karsen's Right Hand
Karsen’s right hand is affected by ectrodactyly.

Fortunately, I was able to have an excellent, retired doctor who created a fifth finger by taking out bone and separating the conjoined fingers. I believe I have had a total of four surgeries on my hand. I am more than efficient with my hand.

My penmanship is beautiful and I recently learned to play the piano. I run into a few bumps here and there but it does not stop me. You just have to alter some steps.

I obtained this disorder from my dad’s side of the family where we had no idea what we even had it until my dad had a brain tumor and almost passed away. His doctors did not sleep for days and finally came to the conclusion of this rare condition, ectodermal dysplasia.

This tumor has altered his life dramatically. His mother carries the gene. The gene was passed down to my dad, his brother and one of his sisters.

Some of my cousins also have this condition. My uncle has three kids with only one child affected and my aunt has two kids, both of whom are affected. Nobody else has ectrodactyly in my family but they have a more severe condition of cracked, fare skin and brittle nails on their hands and feet. They also have dry eyes which can cause them to be very red and irritated at times. I have noticed that this seems to gradually get worse with age.

Between my older sister and I, I am the only one who carries the gene. I actually did not even learn about my abnormalities till one winter holiday. My aunt and sister told me about my impaired breast development.

From there, I connected the dots to my hand. It actually made me very sad and almost scared, considering I was only eight or nine. However, I now know that I just have to accept it. It is who I am and I cannot really change it all.

My Other Symptoms

Besides the cleft hand, I also constantly have a tear in my left eye because my tear ducts were closed when I was born. The amount of times someone has asked me “Why are you crying?” has been exhausting but it will continue. The tear is a permanent friend.

My nails, skin, and hair are very brittle as well as my teeth. I believe I was born with 24 or 26 teeth rather than the full set of 32. The amount of times I have been to the dentist is beyond me, but you could say Dr. Ballou and I are pretty tight now.

Ironically, however, I do not have the condition of hypohidrosis. Instead, I actually tend to sweat more than the women in my age group. Lastly, my father and I do not have finger prints on our hands or feet. I am not fully sure if this is a side effect from ectodermal dysplasia, yet I feel like it fits.

Looking to the Future

The only thing that triggers me for the future is reproducing. I am not sure if I want my children to be exposed to this disorder. I know there are gene tests, which are amazing but very costly. Plus, the treatments for all the side effects that come along with this condition are very costly.

It is amazing to me how few people have this condition. An estimated 3.5 out of 10,000 people are affected with some sort of ectodermal dysplasia condition.

I have never attended an National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias (NFED) Family Conference but I would love to this summer in Portland. It seems extremely heart-warming because you can personally connect with so many people’s stories when generally I cannot do that.

One day, I would love to do more research involved with this condition and even on myself. It is so rare I feel it should not go unnoticed. It can be hard at times but everyone has something involved with their body that they may feel uncomfortable with. We are not alone.

– Karsen Buck is a guest blogger for the NFED.


Share Your Story

14 comments on “The Tear Is A Permanent Friend”

  1. 1
    TonyLove on March 14, 2018

    Karson you are amazing .
    Never,Never give up.
    God bless you.

  2. 2
    Kim Brumfield on March 14, 2018

    What is the gene?

    1. 3
      Jodi Edgar Reinhardt on March 15, 2018
  3. 4
    Matt Payton on March 14, 2018

    Truly amazing! I too always wish to know more research as I too have Ectodermal dysplasia with ectrodactyly and have never personally met anybody else in person. I hope to one day go to a family conference as well. Keep pushing and staying positive!

  4. 5
    Krystal Estes on March 14, 2018

    What a wonderful story,your strength and tenacity are amazing!! Thank you for sharing your story😊

  5. 6
    RR on March 14, 2018

    yes…i always had a problem with giving my finger prints (i should have been a criminal) I am an attorney…(close). it took several times for the Bar to accept my fingerprints. Saw your photos, you have nothing to worry about.
    Ha…26 teeth! I had 4.
    good luck in the future.

  6. 7
    Catriona Kenrick on March 14, 2018

    Hi Karen love reading this, thank you, I have Ectodermal Dysplasia as well, I have the constant tears in both eyes, my teeth aren’t great over this condition, my nails are not normal, I have cleft palate and alopecia as well so I know what it like living with this and I am 35 living in Ireland 🇮🇪, it is nice to know that there is people like me out there

  7. 8
    Heather McKelvie on March 14, 2018

    Hi Karsen! I have ectrodactyly too. I always say it’s the least of my problems because it has never held me back. I hope you can make it to the NFED conference this year. It’s an amazing experience to meet others who share the syndrome!

  8. 9
    Juie on March 18, 2018

    I hope you get the opportunity to attend family conference as you would be an inspiration to others affected and the connections you would make are priceless. Such a brilliant young woman you are!

  9. 10
    Katherine on April 15, 2018

    Hi, my name is Katherine and my granddaughter Indi, who is now 10 was also born with EEC with bilateral cleft lip and palate and well as both hands and feet are split. She has had numerous surgery first one at about 8 months of age. She always has a beautiful spirit and melts hearts from day one. I’m not naive I know she has had and will continue to have rough times in life, but I also know she will always persevere. Love her so very much! You keep of the awesome work Karsen. By the way you are a beautiful young lady!!!!!

  10. 11
    Stacy gillison on November 15, 2019

    My 3 boys and their dad dont have fingerprints either!! Iv spent so long trying to find out if its related to the condition and finally believe it is. Thank you

    1. 12
      Jodi Edgar Reinhardt on November 19, 2019

      Hi, Stacy. The sweat glands form the dermal ridge which causes a fingerprint. If sweat glands are missing, which is common in many ectodermal dysplasias, then the dermal ridge will be not fully formed or missing, which then results in lack of fingerprints. Hope this helps. ~ Jodi, NFED, Director, Marketing and Communications

  11. 13
    Roman M on February 11, 2020

    I agree with your article and this is awesome article. I also have some problems with my ear and throat and was showing to an ear nose throat doctor nyc and I do accept as true with that you have to show yourself to a particular expert for you trouble, in preference to displaying to an ordinary clinical medical doctor. beacuse life is everything.

  12. 14
    Brigitte Garrett on June 8, 2021

    Karsen, This is a beautiful insight into a small portion of your life. Thank you for sharing

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