Bizarre Medical Anomalies
There used to be a time when slideshows were used to depict the capricious aspects of nature, though it’s no longer the case as of now. However, that does not mean the diseases that can well be termed as freaks of nature has ceased to exist. Political sensitivities deterred the exhibition of those who suffer from such illness, which leaves us with only one medium – the Internet – to satiate the urge of those who have a craving for the bizarre. Presented below is a compilation of some of the most unusual and maybe even horrifying irregularities of the medical science.
Also known as Penile Duplication, this refers to the medical condition in which a male child is born along with two penises. Such men are at a higher risk of spina bifida than men with one penis. Generally, both the penises remain side by side and are of the same size though in some cases, one penis may grow longer than the other and will sit on top of the other. It is an extremely rare disorder with only about 1000 known cases. In the United States, one in 5.5 million men have two penises.
It is a disorder that is marked by abnormal growth of bones and skin and which often comes with tumors. This is a very rare disease with only about 200 reported cases of it throughout the world since its official discovery in 1979. It is very much possible for the disease to exist in a mild form, which often goes undiagnosed. However, in spite of an abnormal increase in size, sufferers have completely normal brain function and intelligence. Joseph Merrick, who earned the nickname of Elephant Man, is probably the greatest symbol of the Proteus syndrome and contributed to the popularity of this disorder.
Fetus In Fetu
This is an extremely rare developmental abnormality wherein a fetus gets connected to or trapped inside its twin either internally or partly externally while its still in the womb. It’s possible for the fetus in fetu to remain unnoticed in the host twin until it grows so large that it begins to cause problems for the host and necessitating medical intervention. However, it is more common for the signs to be noticed right from the outset, though generally it gets mistaken for cysts or cancers at first. For instance, a 7-year-old boy was recently found to be carrying his own twin when their parents noticed some movements in his stomach. In yet another case, a 36-year-old man named Sanju Bhagat from Nagpur, India was discovered to be pregnant with his twin. And since Sanju didn’t have a placenta, the fetus inside of him got attached directly to his blood supply. He wasn’t too conscious of his big belly all his life, until it became so large that he looked to be nine months pregnant and complained of severe breathlessness. It was much relief to him as doctors delivered the baby, which though well developed, was severely malformed and did not survive.
Also referred to as Craniofacial duplication, diprosopus is a disorder characterized by the duplication of the face on the head. Though it’s quite similar to fetus in fetu, and which refers to the scenario where two separate fetuses gets joined, diprosopus is different in the sense that it is caused by an anomaly in a protein count with the most unusual name, sonic hedgehog homolog. The name owes its oddity to a controversial tradition followed in molecular biology to pen strange names for genes. The protein is responsible for the development of the face and too much of it leads to the formation of a second face in a mirror image. Again, deficiency of the protein results in ill developed facial features. It is a rare disorder and children with this defect are generally stillborn. However, there’s the instance of a young girl, Lali Singh who was born in 2008 and went on to survive for two full months before succumbing to a heart attack.
This is a very uncommon disorder marked by complete paralysis of the facial muscles, which in most cases also means a general inability to execute sideward movements of the eyes. Sufferers of this disease are completely devoid of any facial expressions, which can make them to appear dull or uninterested in anything going on around them. A lack of any expressions on their face can also lead to them being mistaken as rude and unfriendly, though their mental development or intelligence may be very much normal. Not much is known about the causes of the disorder and there’s very little that can be done about it, apart from taking care of its symptoms like the lack of ability to feed as a baby.
Derived from the Greek word ‘porphura’ which means ‘purple pigment’, Cutaneous Porphyria is responsible for physical anomalies like blisters, excess hair, swelling or necrosis of the skin. The disease can impart a red color to the teeth and fingernails while exposure to the sun can cause urine to turn purple, pink, brown, or black in color. Some believe the occurrence of the disease to be related to the many werewolf and vampire legends of the past with the sufferer, who is likely to lead a live away from society, may have been mistaken for a monster. It is part of a more general group of disorders called porphyrias that includes several mental and physical disorders caused due to excess production of some key enzymes in the body.
The first thing to be noted is the spelling of the disease – it is Elephant-iasis and not Elephant-itis, as most are likely to think. The disease causes the skin to become thick, which is unlike the proteus syndrome that causes both the bone as well as the skin to become thick. It’s a disease that anyone of us can get affected with, since it is caused by microscopic parasitic worms that are transmitted by mosquito, which makes it common in tropical regions and Africa. There is a slightly different form of the disease as well that can be caused through contact with certain types of soil. It is the most common form of disability in the world with up to 6% of the population being affected by it in parts of Ethiopia. Efforts are on for complete eradication of the disease and is believed it can be done latest by 2020.
Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome
Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria syndrome is an extremely rare genetic condition characterized by the dramatic and rapid appearance of symptoms in children that we normally associate with old age. The disease can make a young child to appear very old, though they appear perfectly normal during birth or even in early infancy. It is caused by a genetic mutation and is of special interest to scientist who believe it can shed more light on the natural ageing process in man. There’s no known cure for the disease and is non hereditary. However, life expectancy of affected children does not usually stretch beyond thirteen years, with stroke or a heart attack being the most common reason of death, symptoms that someone old is common to die of. Anyone who may have watched the popular television program form the 80’s, That’s Incredible, is likely to be familiar with the disease as it once featured a young sufferer of this disorder.
The disease is also known as Epidermodysplasia verruciformis and causes the formation of warts on the skin, with hands and feet that are most likely to be affected. The disease is extremely rare and generally starts between the age of 1 and 20, though it can also start during the middle ages. It is a hereditary disorder with no known permanent cure for it. Surgery can provide short-term relief since the warts tend to return back once they have been removed surgically. On an average, a sufferer will require at least two surgeries each year for a wart free skin. In a surgery performed in 2007, a total of 13 pounds or 5.8 kilos of warts were removed which accounted for 95% of the warts from the body of a sufferer.
Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva
Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva is another extremely uncommon disorder marked by a transformation of body parts like muscles, tendons or ligaments into bones when they get damaged. The disease can even cause a fusion of the damaged parts, thereby debarring movement. There is no known cure for the disease and performing surgery to eliminate bone growth does not prove to be of much help as the natural healing mechanism of the body tends to re-develop the damaged bone once more. Further, the rarity of the disease contributes to it being misdiagnosed as cancer, prompting doctors to perform biopsies. This in turn can make matters worse as it may lead to the growth of bone like lumps. The most famous known case of the disease is Harry Eastlack, whose body was so ossified by his death that he was only left with the ability to move his lips. His skeleton can be seen at Mutter Museum where it has been put on display.