In the non-medical world, people often use the word ‘disease’ to refer to infections, sickness, illness, or even addictions. In the medical world however, a disease is an abnormality that will impair bodily functions and is often associated with certain signs and symptoms.
We’ve compiled a list of the top ten strangest and most exotic diseases from all over the world. Be fair warned however, some of the following descriptions and pictures are not for the faint of heart — or hypochondriacs for that matter.
This disease is caused by parasitic worms which are transmitted by mosquitoes. The disease affects 120 million people throughout the world and 40 million of these people have serious disease. After bitten by an infected mosquito, the larvae spread and can live for many years. Ultimately the parasites accumulate in the surrounding tissues. This causes fluid buildup which leads to the extreme swelling. The common signs of this disease are over-sized arms, legs, breasts and genitalia.
This is caused by a small defect within the child’s genetic code. The disease has very hard and devastating consequences. Most children born with the disease will die by the age of 13. As their bodies speed through the process of aging, they develop physical symptoms of older people including heart disease, premature baldness, thinning bones and arthritis. It is extremely rare with only 48 people living with it throughout the world. No known cure exists.
Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva is a rare genetic disease that affects the connective tissue. The body causes fibrous tissue, such as ligament, muscle, and tendons, to become ossified, or to change into bone when damaged. This means that a fall can cause bone to grow within the muscles and tendons throughout the body. It is the only disease known that causes one type of organ system to turn into an entirely different one. The first symptom of the disease is usually the malformation of the big toe. There is no known treatment for FOP, as surgery to get rid of the bone, seems to cause the body to produce even more.
7. Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
AIWS is a highly disorienting neurological condition which affects human visual perception. Sufferers of the disease view humans, animals, and inanimate objects as substantially smaller than they are in reality. Most often, the object perceived appears further away or extremely close all at the same time. For example, a normal sized car may appear as a small toy and a pet dog may be perceived as being the size of a mouse. Luckily, it’s a temporary condition, and it is often associated with migraines and brain tumors.
6. Guinea Worm Disease
This disease is a parasitic infection caused by a type of roundworm. It begins when you consume stagnant water contaminated with its larvae. One year after infected, painful blisters will form on your arms and legs. The blisters burst and expose a small worm. The worm can survive in subcutaneous tissue for years. Removal consists of winding it laboriously around a stick, withdrawing it gradually a little more each day. While not deadly, it is certainly unsettling.
Once in the body, the virus attacks the cells that line blood vessels, causing internal organs throughout the body, from the intestines to the kidneys to the brain, to ooze blood. This includes the lungs, which leads drowning in your own blood. It first emerged in 1976 in Zaire and Sudan, and fruit bats are thought to be the reservoir species.
4. African trypanosomiasis
Also known as the sleeping sickness, African trypanosomiasis is a parasitic disease caused by the bite of a tsetse fly found in Africa. Once infected, victims become confused and stumble about. They keep falling asleep, even while standing. As the disease progresses, the sleep becomes longer, stretching into a coma, then death. Detected early enough, the disease can be treated with drugs.
3. Naegleria fowleri
Also known as “the brain-eating amoeba”, Naegleria fowleri lives in warm lakes, springs and pools. It enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die. Mostly prevalent in the tropics and hot climates, it has been known to strike the US. There have been 4 reported deaths so far this year.
2. Kuru Disease
Also known as the laughing sickness, Kuru disease is caused by cannibalism, specifically eating human brains. It is thought to be the human version of Mad Cow. It is also among the rarest in the world as it is transmitted only among members of the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea. The word Kuru means “trembling with fear” among the Fore Tribe. The disease is known as the laughing sickness due to the pathological bursts of laughter that the patient displays.
1. Nodding syndrome
Very little is known about this new disease which emerged in Sudan in the 1980s. It is a fatal, mentally and physically disabling, and only affects young children. Its young victims tend to nod vigorously at the sight of food. The condition stunts growth permanently and often progresses to severe seizures. Investigators believe it could be connected to river blindness, a disease transmitted by the black fly, which is widespread in southern Sudan.