I don’t know about you, but when I get ill I usually like to moan about it a lot; but maybe we should all thank our lucky stars that most of us only come down with the occasional cold, because there are much worse options out there. Look at some of the symptoms of the diseases listed here and they read like unbelievable horror stories. Worms living inside you, your skin turning into bark, uncontrollable hair growth; all of a sudden a blocked nose and a cough doesn’t sounds too bad does it? It’s scary to think how fragile the body can be, although most of these diseases are very rare so you don’t need to concern yourself too much.
As you read this list of weird, freaky diseases, spare a thought for those suffering with them and be thankful that the majority of ailments you’ll ever have can be cured with some antibiotics and bed rest.
#10 – Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva
That’s what a skeleton looks like when every bone has been fused together. This terrifying disease is also known as stone man syndrome; it’s one of the rarest conditions known to the medical world and there is no cure. The condition is caused by a mutation in the body’s repair mechanism that causes all damaged tissue to be replaced with a bone like substance. Any trauma to the body causes muscle, ligaments and tendons to be replaced with bone.
Surgery is the only way to remove the extra bone growth, unfortunately the trauma of surgery causes to body to increase bone production, worsening the situation. One man who suffered from this affliction donated his body to science when he died; at this point his entire body had been fused together with extra bone growth.
#9 – Tree Man Syndrome
No, these people aren’t really turning into trees, but the reality is almost as scary. The official name for this condition is Epidermodysplasia verruciformis, but it is more commonly known as tree man syndrome due to the bark like appearance of the lesions it causes. People with this condition have skin that constantly produces scaly papules due to a hypersensitivity to HVP infections. These infections are present in 80% of all humans but our immune systems deal with them easily with no symptoms.
A Romanian man who had been suffering with the disease was featured on a discovery channel show; he had 13 lb of warts removed from his body including massive ‘horns’ which had grown on his hands. The warts began to grow back soon after and the poor guy will need 2 operations a year to keep the disease at bay.
#8 – Hypertrichosis, “Werewolf Syndrome”
Some people complain about having to shave their stubble every morning, or pluck their eyebrows once a week; well imagine if you had the equivalent of a full head of hair growing all over your face and body. Werewolf Syndrome causes uncontrollable growth of hair in most areas of the body; some historians actually think the legend of the werewolf may have originated with this disease.
The condition is usually genetic and visible by early adolescence; however there have been cases where werewolf syndrome was induced by the use of hair growth products, so be careful what you wish for. Cases of werewolf syndrome have been reported since at least the 1800’s; many sufferers at the time joined travelling circuses where they were presented as half human half beast.
#7 – Progeria
This is what a person looks like when they age 5 times faster than normal; the boy in this photo is only a child. The appearance of people with progeria can be described as small, wrinkled, and hairless with a frail, weak body and large head. Studies have shown that a person with progeria will have the body in a similar condition to that of an 80 year old by the time they are 15! People born with progeria rarely live past their early 20’s as their internal organs cease to function.
Scarily, the condition is caused by a random genetic mutation, meaning anyone could potentially have a child with the affliction; fortunately there are only known cases in the world right now, so the chances are pretty slim. Researchers are hopeful that by understanding this condition they can unlock the secrets of the aging process.
#6 – Guinea Worm Disease
This disease is every bit as gruesome as it sounds. If you don’t like to the idea of a worm living inside of your body for a whole year, then don’t read on. The parasitic infection is caused when a person drinks water infested with water fleas that are home to the Guinea worm larvae. For a long period of time there are no symptoms and a person will not know that they are infected. About a year later the worm will begin to form a painful, burning blister on either a leg or foot and will begin to emerge from the skin.
A female guinea worm can be up to 100 cm long and it takes literally weeks to wriggle its way out of you; if that doesn’t make you itch I don’t know what will. Thankfully, cases of guinea worm disease have decreased from 3.5 million a year to fewer than 200.
#5 – Cotard’s Delusion, “Walking Corpse Syndrome”
Have you ever woken up and felt like death? Believe it or not there is a real disease that makes walking, talking people believe they are actually dead. People afflicted by this rare illness will be utterly convinced that they are missing internal organs, that they have no blood, or that they are completely dead. In some cases, these people also have delusions of immortality; if you’re already dead then you can’t die, right!? This has caused people to starve to death as they believe they no longer need food.
It is though that Cotard’s delusion is caused by the part of the brain that recognises faces not functioning properly; when a person cannot recognise their own face they lose their sense of self and assume they are dead. Treatment includes a series of anti-depressants and in serious cases, electroconvulsive therapy.
#4 – African Trypanosomiasis
If you’re bitten by the Tse Tse fly then you may become infected with this horrendous, fatal parasite. The fly carries the parasite which infects the body over a period of weeks and months, progressively working its way to the brain where it will eventually kill anyone who isn’t treated.
The infection is extremely painful and will cause confusion, fevers, headaches and joint pains; what makes this disease strange, though, is the effect it has on a person as they become more and more sick. Once in the brain, the parasite affects the sleeping pattern of an infected individual causing them to sleep during the day and stay awake restlessly at night. Eventually the sufferer will fall asleep and not wake up, slip into a coma and die. It’s for this reason that the disease is nicknamed the ‘sleeping sickness’.
#3 – Kuru Disease
Did you ever think it could be possible to actually die from laughter? Neither did I, but the horrific Kuru disease makes this terrifying prospect a reality. Kuru is a neurological disease that infects the brain and causes the afflicted person to laugh uncontrollably, despite a feeling of depression. Someone infected with Kuru will also suffer from constant shakes, joint spasms and will eventually lose the ability to control their own body.
The disease is fatal and there is no known cure of treatment. The worst part of this disease is the way it is passed on; a human can only contract Kuru by eating the brain of another human infected with the disease. Tribal regions of Papa New Guinea are the only known areas where the disease is present, due to the tribe’s tradition of eating their relatives once they die.
#2 – Foreign Accent Syndrome
Have you ever wanted to wake up one morning and have a perfect, smooth, French accent? Well that is exactly what’s been happing to people with foreign accent syndrome! Well, it’s not quite as easy as that; of the 62 recorded cases of the syndrome, all of them have either suffered a stroke, head trauma or severe migraines, so it’s not something you should be hoping for.
These people, once recovered from their injuries, have found themselves speaking in the accent of a country that they have never visited. It is thought that severe head trauma can sometimes alter how the speech process works and change the way you move your tongue when you speak, resulting in a difference accent. The effect is permanent and an accent can only be changed back to its original with extensive speech therapy, possibly taking years.
#1 – Porphyria
Is this disease the source of the vampire legend? Porphyria is a disease which causes extreme sensitivity to sunlight, an aversion to highly acidic foods (such as garlic) and causes the gums to recede, giving the appearance of sharp fangs. Starting to sounds familiar? Some experts believe porphyria offers an explanation to the legend of the vampire, with symptoms that are very similar to what is described in folklore.
If left untreated, people afflicted with porthyria are said to go mad; in fact it has been theorised that King George III (also known as the ‘mad king’) suffered from a type of porthyria. People who suffer from the condition can now be treated with regular blood transfusions however they will retain their vampiric appearance; although I think they’d appreciate it if you didn’t try to steak them in the heart.