Top 10 Strange Diseases

A look at some of the rarest and strangest diseases in the world. Morgellons sufferers say strange fibers are emerging from their bodies.

Others like Progeria see the aging process go much faster than normal. Mad cow disease, SARS, swine flu and now SARS-CoV-2: Some diseases are making headlines. But thousands of people worldwide suffer from very rare conditions, which few have ever heard of.

England’s King George III may have suffered from porphyria, a condition that affects the nervous system.

From the Alice in Wonderland syndrome that may have inspired Lewis Carroll, to the illness that could have driven an English king mad, we take a look at some of these obscure illnesses.

Don’t wish the list of top 10 strange diseases on your worst enemy.

10. Morgellons


Source: Trine Nickelsen | CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported
According to the Morgellons Research Foundation, crawling, biting and stinging sensations and the emergence of strange blue, black or red fibers from the skin characterize a disease that affects nearly 14,000 people.

This is often accompanied by exhaustion, short-term memory loss, joint pain and changes in vision. The condition was named Morgellons in 2002 by a mother who believed her two-year-old son was suffering from the disease. The name comes from a 17th century skin condition found in France in which children died after developing ‘dark hair’.

However, there is much debate about whether the condition actually exists.

In March 2008, the Journal of Dermatologic Therapy reported that most doctors believe it to be a form of delusion, in which sufferers mistakenly believe they are infested with parasites. Consequently, the fibers in the skin are thought to be from textiles, picked up by oozing scabs resulting from more common conditions such as eczema or scabies.

The US-based Center For Disease Control and Prevention recently announced it would investigate the disease after an increasing number of questions from the public.

9. Progeria

progeriaSource: wikipedia | CC BY 2.5 Generic

Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome. HGPS is a childhood disorder caused by mutations in one of the major architectural proteins of the cell nucleus. In HGPS patients, the nucleus has a dramatically different morphology (bottom right) instead of the uniform shape usually found in healthy people (top right).

Progeria is congenital, meaning it is an abnormality or damage to a fetus. Sufferers of this deadly disease have a striking appearance that resembles premature aging, but they die at an average age of 13 years.

Severe stunted growth begins between nine and 24 months, leading to abnormal facial developments such as a disproportionately small face, bulging, prominent eyes, and an underdeveloped jaw. By the age of two, the hair on the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes is lost.

The US National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD) says sufferers eventually lose the fat layer under the skin and over time the elasticity of the artery walls is lost, leading to death from heart attack or stroke in 90 percent of sufferers.

8. Water allergy

water allergy

Source: Rob! † CC BY 2.0 Generic
Water allergy or “aquagenic urticaria” is known to have affected only 30 people, it is extremely rare, but its existence has been confirmed by the Medical Review Board. Sufferers are found to be allergic to water. It usually occurs late in life and is often the result of a hormonal imbalance created by childbirth.

In April this year, a case surfaced in the UK in which a 21-year-old mother was unable to drink water or get out in the rain because her skin developed a painful burning rash. She can shower for a maximum of 10 seconds a week and can only drink Diet Coke. Strictly speaking, it is not an allergy but a hypersensitivity to the ions found in non-distilled water.

7. Foreign Accent Syndrome

Foreign Accent Syndrome

Source: frontiersin
Sufferers of Foreign Accent Syndrome inexplicably find themselves speaking in an unrecognizable dialect. Only 60 cases have ever been recorded.

Doctors initially dismissed it as a psychiatric problem, but in 2002 scientists at Oxford University in England found that sufferers shared the same brain abnormalities, leading to changes in speech pitch, vowel lengthening and other irregularities.

According to the Journal of Neurolinguistics, the sufferers do not necessarily have to have been exposed to the accent they adopt: their new voice is not strictly speaking a foreign accent, but the changes in speech often bear a striking resemblance to other global accents.

The first case involved a Norwegian woman in 1941, who developed a strong German accent and was ostracized by her community.

6. Kuru

KuruSource: Liberski PP | CC BY 3.0 Unported

Anterior child in advanced kuru stage, unable to sit or stand unaided.

The laughing death, better known as Kuru, was exclusive to the indigenous Fore people of New Guinea. The disease, characterized by sudden bursts of maniacal laughter, made headlines in the 1950s, attracting doctors from around the world.

American and Australian doctors observed men and women with trembling limbs, which subsided with rest, but a month to three months later, the sufferers began to sway and stumble, lose the ability to stand, squint, and speak coherently. to lose before they finally died.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reported that tests on the deceased showed that death was caused by the creation of holes in the brain known as “swiss-cheesing.”

In the end, American physician Carleton Gajdusek worked out that the infection was passed on through the village custom of eating relatives after their death. When cannibalism was eradicated, the epidemic ended. In 1976, Gajdusek was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work.

5. Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP)

Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP)Source: Joh-co | CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported

The skeleton of Harry Raymond Eastlack, a known sufferer of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a disease that causes damaged soft tissue to grow back into bone. Sufferers are slowly held captive by a secondary skeleton.

In 1938, when American Harry Eastlack was five years old, he broke his leg. The fracture didn’t heal well, his hip and knee stiffened and, bizarrely, bone growths developed on the muscles of his thigh. By his mid-twenties, the vertebrae of his back had fused together. When he died in 1973 at the age of 39, he could only move his lips.

He suffered from fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), a rare disease that affects about 1 in 2 million people, in which the body’s tendons and ligaments undergo a strange metamorphosis, essentially a transformation into bone.

The condition is congenital and is characterized by a deformity of the big toe that is present at birth. Eastlack donated his skeleton for research into the disease, and it is on display at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. The International FOP Association continues to research this extremely rare condition.

4. Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland syndromeSource: wikipedia | Public Domain Mark 1.0

An illustration depicting one of the symptoms of the syndrome (from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865).

According to the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine, sufferers of Alice in Wonderland syndrome perceive objects as much smaller than they are. The condition, also known as micropsy or Lillliput vision, can also affect hearing, touch and perception of one’s own body image.

The syndrome is associated with migraine headaches and named after Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in which Alice goes through many bizarre experiences similar to those a micropsia patient might go through. The fact that Carroll suffered from migraines is well documented, and some speculate that his suffering may have been the source of many passages in the work.

3. Porphyria

porphyriaSource: Chern | CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported

A skin rash in someone with porphyria.

Purple urine and feces make porphyria infamous, as well as the fact that the “crazy” 18th century English King George III may have suffered from it. Porphyria complicates the production of ‘heme’, a protein vital for red blood cells, and affects the skin and nervous system. Seizures lead to abdominal pain, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and constipation.

NORD lists other symptoms including increasing sun sensitivity, itching and swelling. Increased hair growth on the forehead can also occur.

Toxins resulting from failed heme production can affect the color of other areas, especially after exposure to sunlight. Sometimes the teeth and fingernails can take on a reddish appearance. It is these toxins that lead to the dark urine and stools.

Mary Queen of Scots, Vincent Van Gogh, and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon may have suffered from this disease.

2. Pica


Source: hunnnterrr | CC BY 2.0 Generic
The magpie, Latin name pica, eats everything, and so do sufferers of pica syndrome. Almost always pregnant women or children, the sufferers develop an appetite for non-nutritive substances, such as paint, clay, plaster or dirt, or alternatively items considered more as food components, such as raw rice, flour or salt.

It can only be considered pica if the appetite persists for more than a month and the sufferer is of an age at which eating these items is considered a developmental disorder. Medical researchers have mistakenly associated pica with a mineral deficiency, but experts have not yet been able to determine a real, established cause or cure for this strange condition, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.

1. Möbius syndrome

Möbius' syndromeSource: Al Kaisi A | CC BY 2.0 Generic

A child with Möbius syndrome.

Moebius is extremely rare, genetically determined and characterized by complete facial paralysis. Sufferers cannot close their eyes, look side to side, or form facial expressions. Abnormalities of the limbs such as clubbed feet and missing fingers are also often present.

According to the Moebius Syndrome Foundation, most cases are isolated, with no significant family history, and sufferers continue to live long and healthy lives.

Family members often learn to recognize body language, posture, and vocal tone as communicators of emotions, sometimes claiming that they completely forget that the person has facial paralysis.

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