Mankind has made huge strides in healthcare over the last 100 years, due to a combination of enormous funding, increased expenditure on research and technology and an accumulation of shared knowledge which has allowed us to combat even the most deadly diseases. In the developed world we no longer have to worry about being wiped out by diseases such as the Black Death which eviscerated huge swathes of the European population centuries ago.
However there are some medical problems that are so rare and unusual that they’ve received little attention, and since there is little profit opportunity in combating them (due to their rarity), doctors can do little to effect a cure if you’re unfortunate enough to suffer from them.
Here we present the 10 most unusual and weird medical conditions that you have probably never heard of. Some of them are so odd that you’ll be scratching your head and wondering if they’re actually made up. Believe it or not, all of these unusual medical problems do actually exist.
10. Alien Hand Syndrome
Alien Hand Syndrome is another syndrome which affects the brain. The patient who suffers has problems controlling their hands, so that they appear to have a life of their own. Thus, they often grab, grip and swat without even realizing they are doing it. This of course makes it very difficult to exert proper motor control, leading to a real reduction in their quality of life.
The cause of this strange and disturbing syndrome is thought to be the result of surgical operations on parts of the brain that control arm and hand movement (usually in an attempt to fix epilepsy, stroke or brain injury).
There is unfortunately no cure.
9. Alice In Wonderland Syndrome
Alice in Wonderland syndrome is surely one of the most disturbing disorders on our list – so called because the patients brain will not perceive the input from their eyes in a normal way. Thus, they will think that objects that they see expand and contract (including other people, of course – the brain will not discriminate). Just imagine how confusing and frightening this would be, your entire existence would have no consistency and it would be impossible to make sense of the world. It’s no surprise that sufferers will sadly often suffer from a psychotic breakdown.
The syndrome is most common in people who have a prior history of migraine or epilepsy. Treatment can vary but fortunately, like epilepsy, patients can eventually grow out of it.
Surely one of the strangest medical problems on our list, Pica is a condition that compels its suffers to obsessively consume foodstuffs that have no nutritional value whatsoever. Sufferers have been known to eat soil, grass, paper and even cardboard. Because the human body was never designed to eat these kind of things, patients sadly risk considerable damage to their internal organs due to ruptures and tears. Of course, because they do not eat proper nutritional food, Pica patients are often malnourished and thus can interrupt their natural growth patterns.
The condition usually starts during the early years of life and fortunately sufferers usually grow out of it within a short time frame – usually within 1 year. Lucky for them as one can only imagine what a terrible condition this would be.
7. Aquagenic Urticaria
You can probably guess what this disease is : an allergy to any form of contact with water. Patients who suffer breakouts in rashes or hives if they ever touch water, which fortunately starts to disappear after a couple of hours. There is no known cure for this disease, but there are various topical medicines that control the symptoms effectively, meaning it’s much less of a burden than the other terrible diseases and syndromes on our list.
Not much else is known about this strange disease because it is again incredibly rare, but it is known that patients have to dramatically alter their lifestyles to avoid ever coming into contact with water. Just imagine if you suffered from it and you get caught in a downpour..Terrible.
6. Congenital Insensitivity To Pain
The name says it all : people who suffer from this extremely rare disease can literally feel no pain. Now whilst this might initially seem great, when you stop to think about it, it’s actually a terrible thing to suffer from. Pain is of course a highly effective natural defense against causing injury to yourself : put your hand on a hot stove and you can rest assured you will never do it again.
Sufferers form this disorder would not even feel it, so you can imagine the difficulties they run into when their bodies give them no feedback that something is wrong. They have to check themselves multiple times throughout the day to make sure that they are not bleeding, cut or have any broken bones. If they do not they could literally die if they don’t notice something is wrong.
Fortunately for humanity in general, this is the rarest syndrome on our list; there are less than 100 confirmed cases of insensitivity to pain worldwide.
5. Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva
This terrible disease is probably the worst on our list so far. The soft tissues of the body – tendons, ligaments and cartilage progressively start to turn into bone. The disease starts at the top of the body and slowly over time works its way down throughout the entire body, increasingly shutting down the patients mobility (and of course quality of life).
Because the disease affects all soft tissue, the biggest problem areas are around the ribs, causing breathing problems later in life as the patient cannot breathe in and out properly. There is no known cure and eventually the patient becomes completely immobile. Patients usually die before the age of 40. This is a heartbreaking disease that is also incredibly rare.
4. Kleine-Levin Syndrome
This is the second sleeping disorder on our list – patients who suffer from this syndrome have episodic sleeping problems where they can drift into sleep for up to 21 hours per day. Unfortunately for those who suffer, these episodes can last for up to 1 month, and it’s impossible to predict when they will happen.
As you can probably imagine, this makes it very difficult to have a good quality of life because the patient never knows when they will be struck next. You can’t have a job or hold down a real relationship if you periodically go into hibernation for a month at a time.
The syndrome overwhelmingly affects men rather than women, with 70% of known sufferers being male. This is another rare disease, and affects 1 in 1 million people worldwide – because of this there has been little effort made to combat the syndrome from the medical community.
Fortunately for the patients, the syndrome eventually disappears after 8 to 13 years, though as you can imagine it has a devastating effect on their quality of life while they are still afflicted.
3. Cotard’s Syndrome
Cotard’s syndrome is another very rare problem where patients believe that they are dead. Typical symptoms include thinking that their flesh is rotting off their bones, that they are invisible to other people, and that parts of their body are falling off. Another common symptom is the belief that they are continually suffering from severe blood loss.
As you can imagine this disease unfortunately causes incredible suffering and there is no known cure. It is typically treated with powerful anti depressant medication and electroshock therapy. Once again because the syndrome is so rare there is little understanding of the causes within the medical industry, so the best that the patient can hope for is an overall improvement in their quality of life by alleviating their terrible symptoms.
2. Fatal Familial Insomnia
The second and final sleep disorder on our list, Fatal Familial Insomnia is a very severe form of insomnia which unfortunately does not go away and which becomes progressively gets worse, wearing the sufferer down until death. In most cases, this happens with 12 to 16 months.
This is another brain disease and is thought to be caused by the way in which the brain tissue is formed. The cells in the human body (including the brain) are made of types of tissue – including protein and in the case of FFI, the proteins don’t form in a normal way and instead bunch together in clumps, causing brain irregularities which eventually result in FFI. Symptoms for this deadly disease usually show up in middle age and as you can probably guess, are persistent and terrible insomnia.
There is unfortunately no known cure.
1. The Jumping Frenchmen Of Maine
This is number 1 on our list because although nowhere near as nasty and life threatening as some of the other disorders, it is surely the most bizarre.
It basically boils down to an overdeveloped startle reflex. The startle reflex is a human evolutionary response designed to protect us from sudden incoming danger, such as a large predator, or in our times, a fast approaching car, truck or large vehicle. Clearly when this happens you need a split second (or even tenth of a second) response, to get you out of the way before the threat can destroy you.
When a sufferer of this bizarre disease is startled, their reactions can be highly unusual, such as excessive and sudden swearing, repetition of a word over and over again (like a parrot!), copying the behavior of someone nearby and, believe it or not, following commands such as run, jump or punch. Obviously if you approached a complete stranger and gave them a command, they would think you are nuts and avoid you (or even retaliate), but a startled Jumping Frenchmen sufferer would actually follow your command. Utterly bizarre!
Symptoms usually manifest during puberty, but fortunately this is another disease on our list that the patient eventually grows out of.