Weird Diseases: Intriguing Unless You’re a Hypochondriac

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Let’s face it – science can be amazing, but it can also be incredibly weird. Our bodies can withstand running marathons, climbing mountains, and even traveling to space. Yet they can also succumb to weird genetic disorders, weird skin conditions, and weird diseases.  

Lucky for us, the more bizarre diseases are also the rarest. Below is a list of the Top 10 Weird Diseases (in no particular order), what they do, and how they are contracted.

Top 10 Weird Diseases

1.  Trypanosomiasis or The Sleeping Sickness

According to the World Health Organization, this rare disease is only found in 36 sub-Saharan African countries, due to the fact that it is spread by a certain species of tsetse fly. People can also contract the disease through contaminated needles, and mothers can pass the disease on to children through the placenta.

A person infected with this disease may start to run a fever and experience aches and pains in their joints. Later, the patient may exhibit odd changes in behavior and confusion, which eventually lead to neurological symptoms and, ultimately, a disrupted and skewed sleep cycle. The patient may sleep for 24 hour periods, with long hours of wakefulness in the night. If left untreated, the patient could slip into a coma and die.

2.  Porphyria

Porphyria is a disease that is inherited more than contracted. Some believe that Porphyria spurred the myths and stories of vampires. Because Porphyria affects the hemoglobin in one’s blood, one of the symptoms of Porphyria is a severe sensitivity to sunlight. In fact, in extreme cases, the skin will instantly blister and burn when a person’s skin is exposed to the sun. Porphyria can also cause neurological symptoms like hallucinations or paranoia, according to the Mayo Clinic.

3.  The Capgras Delusion

The Capgras Delusion is a rare neurological disorder that affects some individuals after a traumatic brain injury. When a person suffers from this strange ailment, he may suddenly believe that people in his life are imposters. For example, a man could wake up from a coma, see his wife standing by his bed, and believe that she is someone pretending to be his wife. It is not amnesia in that the man will not remember having a wife; he just believes his wife has been replaced by an imposter.

4.  Cotard’s Delusion or Walking Corpse Syndrome

Cotard’s Delusion is another neurological disorder. Instead of stemming from brain injury, this disease is thought to be caused by a Walking Corpse Syndrome, since people suffering from this ailment believe they are literally a walking corpse.

5.  Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva or “Stone Man Syndrome”

This extremely rare disorder is a genetic disease in which muscle and connective tissues are gradually replaced by bone. While the ailment is not, by itself, fatal, the bone growth can make it impossible to breathe, and can even cause a person’s jaw to be fused shut, and many sufferers die early. A marker of this disease is being born with a deformed and abnormally large big toe. Of course, that is just one marker – that does not mean that those born with odd big toes are going to eventually “turn to stone.”

6.  Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland is a pretty trippy movie. One of the most disorienting parts of the movie involve Alice eating random pieces of food, which cause her to either grow enormously larger than her surroundings, or tiny, depending on the treat. On a list of strange diseases, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome should not be left out.

Triggers of this neurological disorder include infections, migraines, stress and drugs. The person, like Alice, sees distorted sizes. One person may think everything in the room looks small enough to fit in a dollhouse, while another may look at his hand and view it as double the size it should be. The Alice in Wonderland Syndrome has no proven treatment, but the effects can be lessened with treatment options similar to migraine sufferers.

7.  Nodding Syndrome

The CDC is among the institutions that studies Nodding Syndrome – one of the weird diseases for which there is no obvious cause and no cure.  This disease seems to only reach children and is restricted to small regions in Africa.

Children with this disease have stunted growth, diminished mental capacity, and most notably, constantly nod their heads. Unfortunately, most children with Nodding Syndrome die within a few years of coming down with the disease.

8.  Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis, Lewandowsky-Lutz Dysplasia or “Tree Man Syndrome”

Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is not a rare or strange disease. The inability to fight off common strains of this disease, however, is one of the worst skin diseases around. Called Tree Man Syndrome, people with this disease develop an abundance of warts on the skin that grow so profusely their skin begins to resemble tree bark. A man in Indonesia was so covered with these warts that they made up “12 pounds of his 100 pound body,” according to a CNN report.

Treatments can be administered to remove the warts, but the problem is that the underlying immune system deficiency will cause the warts to grow back eventually.

9.  Hypertrichosis or Werewolf Syndrome

In this list of unusual diseases, we talked about Porphyria, which some scientists believe spurred tales of vampires. In the same way, Hypertrichosis, or Werewolf Syndrome, could be the inspiration for werewolves. Werewolf syndrome is a congenital disorder which causes excessive hair growth, including on parts of the body where hair does not normally grow. In extreme cases, a person’s entire face can be covered with hair.

Treatment for Werewolf Syndrome is the same for any person who wishes to remove unwanted hair – waxing, shaving, laser treatments, etc. However, like with regular hair growth, the hair can easily grow back.

10.  The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine

Some scientists believe that the symptoms exhibited by The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine, and others with this strange disease, are neurological. Others believe they are the results of inbreeding or genetic issues. Whatever, the case, The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine is one of the most interesting diseases on this list.

If you have ever watched a video of a “fainting goat”, you have seen that there is a species of goat that, when startled, appears to freeze instantly and fall over on stiff legs. Similarly, someone suffering from hyperekplexia, the technical term for what a group of men from Maine exhibited when the disease was first documented, will react to stimulus in an exaggerated and highly startled way. The mere sound of a slammed door may cause the person to literally jump, flail about, and yell.

It gets weirder. A crazy marker of this disease is that, once startled, the person will instantly do whatever another person tells him to do. For example, if you startle a person and yell out “throw me your wallet!”, the person will do exactly as instructed.

This disease is certainly high on the list of funny diseases, although someone who suffers from hyperekplexia would probably not agree (unless you told them to).

Many weird diseases sound like they have come straight out of a science fiction novel.  Maybe we enjoy hearing about crazy diseases because they remind us that, hey, it could be worse. Maybe we want to be reminded about how much we do not know about genetics, viruses, and bacteria. No matter what the reason is, the strangest diseases are certainly entertaining to discover – from a distance.

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