What would your reaction be if you suddenly see a real vampire in a dimly lit room, or maybe a statue walking towards you? Shocked, no doubt. There are thousands of diseases and disorders, and some of them are rare, but there are a few disorders that are so weird, they will leave you dumbstruck. Here are ten of those weird diseases chosen randomly.
Oversensitivity to sunlight, painful skin redness and blisters when exposed to sunlight, garlic causing agonising abdominal pain, receding gums giving the appearance of fangs – sounds familiar? It’s not hard to deduce that these are the characteristics of vampire. These are also the symptoms of Porphyria, a group of genetic disorders that result in a buildup of chemicals called porphyrins produced in the body because of disruption in the heme production. Heme is an iron-rich component of haemoglobin that gives the blood its red colour.
This set of rare disorders is not curable but it is managed through regular blood transfusion.
2. Human Werewolf Syndrome
All of us have a certain amount of hair on the body. But what if people, irrespective of whether they are man, woman or child, sprout thick hair on their face and body? Yes, some people are born with extra genes on a certain spot of the X chromosome that causes excess hair growth. This syndrome is called Congenital Hypertrichosis. Plus this condition is almost always associated with gingival hyperplasia (teeth defects). No wonder the syndrome is nicknamed Human Werewolf Syndrome.
This is a very rare syndrome with only about 50 cases reported worldwide since the Middle Ages. The syndrome may have limited medical significance, but it definitely causes embarrassment that could result in a significant emotional burden. Treatment such as laser removal of hair is available but the hair usually grows back on the body and face.
3. Tree Bark Skin Disorder
When a single wart on the exposed part of the body can cause distress, imagine how it would feel to have your entire body covered with warts! It is however true for some people who suffer from Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis, an inherited skin disorder characterised by eruptions of wart-like lesions that may occur anywhere on the body. One type of lesions are reddish brown and have scaly surfaces and irregular borders; while the second type are seen on sun-exposed skin and are often slightly raised, brown coloured lesions resembling tree bark.
These lesions are caused by infection with a subtype of human papillomavirus (HPV). In general, this virus does not cause any lesions but in people with Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis, the virus causes these lesions. A major concern for these patients is that the disorder may turn into skin cancers. There is no known cure for this disorder. It is managed through medication, surgery and counselling.
4. Accelerated Ageing Syndrome
Remember the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button where Brad Pitt played the role of Benjamin Button who was born old and gradually grew younger? That may have been a fictitious story, but there is this extremely rare disorder known as Progeria or the Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome in which children begin to look elderly even before they’re two years old, without disruption in intellectual development or motor skill development.
Children with this syndrome have characteristic prominent eyes, a thin nose with a beaked tip, thin lips, a small chin, and protruding ears. They start looking like old people as in hair loss, aging skin, joint abnormalities, and a loss of fat under the skin. They experience severe hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) beginning in childhood that lead to heart attack or stroke at young age. Unfortunately, this is a life threatening condition. (Read: Suffering from uncommon diseases, do not lose hope!)
5. Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome
Imagine being on the verge of an orgasm 24×7! Sounds freaky? But it’s not for those who suffer from this rare, weird neurological (and maybe hormonal) condition. Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome is characterised by unrelenting, persistent and intrusive genital arousal which has nothing to do with sexual desire. This condition can affect anyone irrespective of age or gender and is so distressful and embarrassing that people with this condition often turn suicidal.
Although no definite cause has been established so far for this syndrome, scientists believe that neurological hypersensitivity (ultra sensitive nerves in the genital area) could be the reason. Other theories range from venous congestion of pelvic organs to disorder in prolactin hormone release after orgasm, to deficiency in oxytocin release from pituitary gland located at the base of the brain.
6. The living statue syndrome
Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP) is one of the rarest, painful and most disabling genetic conditions in which bones form in muscles, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissues. These bones develop across joints thus restricting movement and forming a second skeleton. The body thus looks like a living statue. Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for this condition. Injuries and surgeries can further deteriorate the condition. This genetic disease doesn’t have ethnic, racial, or gender patterns and has been found to affect just one in two million people.
Jeannie Peeper became aware of her disorder when she was 8. Her left wrist had locked in a backwards position as a new bone had grown in her arm. Jeannie’s doctors took a muscle biopsy from her left forearm. That caused another bone growth that had frozen the joint. Over the next decade, she grew more bones across her back disfiguring her, her right elbow locking, and her left hip freezing. Once she hit her hip on the corner of the table. It caused another bone growth. This time her right hip froze. Since then she has been in a wheelchair.
7. Alien Hand Syndrome
Fifty five-year-old Karen Byrne lives in New Jersey. She had a surgery at 27 to control her epilepsy. Since then something bizarre started happening with her. Her left hand, and occasionally her left leg, behaved as if they had a mind of their own. ‘I’d light a cigarette, balance it on an ashtray, and then my left hand would reach forward and stub it out. It would take things out of my handbag and I wouldn’t realise so I would walk away. I lost a lot of things before I realised what was going on,’ she said. Not only that, her left hand would slap her suddenly or start unbuttoning her shirt. She suffers from a strange neurological disorder called Alien Hand Syndrome. Although a person with Alien Hand syndrome has full sensation in the rogue hand, they are not in control of its movement as though it is not part of their body.
Researchers believe that this is a side effect of brain surgery or an injury to the area of the brain which connects the two halves of the brain. They found that in patients with this syndrome, the left and right hemisphere of their brains each is capable of its own independent will. In Karen’s case, the right side of her brain refused to be dominated by the left and so her left hand seemed to be controlled by ‘alien intelligence’. Earlier there was no cure for this disorder but a study published in the journal Neurologist revealed that botulinum toxin injections may help minimise this syndrome.
8. Congenital Insensitivity to Pain
Ever watched an ascetic walk over red hot coals with a serene expression on their face? That could be a trick or faith and scientists have come out with various explanations for the process. But there is a bizarre genetic condition where the patients don’t perceive physical pain in any part of their body even when injured. For example, people with this condition cannot sense when a hot beverage is burning their tongue. This pain insensitivity can lead to wounds and bruises and other health issues going undetected.
Congenital insensitivity to pain is a rare condition that affects the nervous system, which connects the brain and spinal cord to muscles and cells that detect sensations such as touch, smell, and pain. It is believed to be caused due to mutation in the gene that controls these pain sensing neurons.
9. Fish Odour Syndrome – Trimethylaminuria
Imagine emitting a strong fish smell whenever you are talking to someone or yawning. The odour is also emitted when sweating or taking a pee. This is a weird disorder called Trimethylaminuria, also known as fish odour syndrome, which is a rare metabolic disorder that causes a defect in the normal production of the flavin enzyme FMO3. It is again an inherited disorder and is more common in women than in men. Well, even scientists don’t know why. They suspect that female sex hormones – progesterone and oestrogen – can aggravate symptoms. The condition worsens around puberty, before and during menstrual periods, after taking oral contraceptives, and around menopause.
Those with this syndrome are advised against eating foods containing trimethylamine and its precursors, such as, legume and soy products, milk from wheat fed cattle, eggs, liver, kidney, peas, peanut, cabbage family vegetables, and seafood.
10. Food Allergy
Ah, this is a common one you think. Most people have some or the other food allergy. You may be allergic to peanuts; you may be allergic to tomatoes, egg plant, shellfish, corn, egg, and so many other foods. But have you heard of people being allergic to ALL food? Medically termed Eosinophilic esophagitis, it is a recently recognised allergic/immune condition where inflammation or swelling of the oesophagus occurs and white blood cells called eosinophils (not normally found in oesophagus) appears.
People with Eosinophilic esophagitis have difficulty swallowing. The oesophagus can narrow to the point that food gets stuck. This is called food impaction and is a medical emergency.
Joshua Koscinski, a young boy who lives in New York, suffers from eosonophilic esophagitis. The disorder in his case is so extreme that even the scent of food causes him to be hospitalised. His mother feeds him through a tube directly to his stomach.
If you have noticed, most of these weird conditions are either heredity or they are somehow connected to impaired brain functioning. So, there’s very little one can do to prevent these disorders other than pray that this doesn’t affect them or their loved ones.