Guide Book to Life
Guide Book to Life

Strange diseases in the world- The Possibility, behind Impossible Fairy Tales

July 25, 2018 Admin 10 min Health, Beauty and Fitness
Werewolf Vampire/Dracula Zombies Witch Mermaids Cyclops Sleeping BeautyStrange diseases in the world

"People Fear, What they do Not Understand"

All of us have read fairy tales, sometime or other in life and have felt in awe about the variety of creatures described therein. A child like curiosity, always left footprints of these books and movies seen in childhood, in our minds for ever. In recent times the success of movies -- like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, have again successfully revived the interest of public in fairy tales and Fantasy novels. While most of the people would believe, that most of these strange characters are just a figment of imagination of the author’s mind, and maybe they were; but every now and then, we come across stories of humans, who resemble, those strange characters described in the stories.

 

If the people concerned, stay in place where all the modern medical facilities are available, then the story usually have a happy ending in real life. Sometimes these incidents, happen in parts of the world, where superstition are still prevalent, resources scarce and modern medical facilities still a distant dream for people; the result may be misfortunate chain of events, that may lead to strife in life of all people concerned. This article is a humble attempt, in clarifying the popular misconceptions in minds of people, regarding human beings who do not look or behave like the vast majority, because of some underlying medical abnormality. Here we discuss some popular characters, we read about in the fairy tales and underlying medical conditions that may make ordinary human beings look like them. Here is the list of few Strange diseases in the world. 

 

Werewolf

The Fiction

As described in Fairy tales, Werewolf are mythical creatures, who are basically human beings in normal day to day routine, but on Full Moon Light under the effects of moon light, they change into humanoid wolf (whole body covered with hairs ) , who have supernatural strength and are very prone to violent mood swings, thereby harming normal human beings in the process. Also if they bit another human, and they survived, those human beings would change into werewolf, in the next full moon, thereby continuing the cycle. It is no doubt, that these characters have always evoked fear and hate from common people.

 

Medical Facts

Several condition can cause a human to resemble the entity described above. Some of them are

1) Hypertrichosis

In layman’s term, it means excess hairs are present in the body of a person ; It is unfortunately also called as Werewolf Syndrome. There are many variety of this disease – it may appear immediately after birth or may appear much later in life ; it may be restricted in localised area in the body or may be generalized, the hairs may be short and fine or it may be long and thick. A particular variety, restricted to women is known as Hirsutism. The cause of this condition are multifactorial, and can range from – Genetics, eating disorder, cancer and meditational side effects. A very famous character from history – Petrus Gonsalvus , a noble man in the court of the French King – Henry II, suffered from this disease and was the inspirational character of Beast , for the story of “Beauty and the Beast”, written by Gabrielle Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve more than a century later.

 

2) Leonine Facies

It is a condition, in which a persons face resembles that of a lion (Yes, the person looks like a lion). The are many conditions which may cause this – Leprosy and Pagets disease of the bone the commonest causes.

Werewolf
Petrus Gonsalvus (Hypertrichosis)

Vampires Dracula for the Uninitiated

Fiction

Vampires are the blood sucking creatures you read in the horror novels, who are immortal (within certain limits), drink human blood, do not move around in daylight and can change shape. Thanks to Bram Stoker’s famous Novel Dracula ( a character loosely inspired on, Vlad Dracula , the 15th century ruthless ruler of Romania); most of the people have a basic idea of what a vampire is about. Unfortunately, there have been records of normal people who attempted to drink human blood, with terrible consequences. This disease is popular as one of the Strange diseases in the world.

Vampire
Vampire

Medical Facts

Although no disease can produce a flying blood sucking Dracula, but some of the other classical behaviour of vampires have been seen in some medical conditions.

 

1) Porphyria

This is a condition in which there is an excess build up of a compound called porphyrins in the body. It may effect the Nervous system of the body or the skin and sometimes both. It the variant which effects the skin, that certain manifestations of vampire maybe seen. Exposure to Sun and sometimes also to artificial light can cause severe burning pain. There maybe redness, swelling and blisters on the skin. Sometimes permanent skin damage can occur. Personality changes and mental disorder may be seen. Genetic inheritance is seen in most cases (Family of Vampires??)

 

2) Xeroderma Pigmentosum

This also has some common symptoms as the previous disease. This is also a genetic disease in which, skin loses the ability to repair the damage caused by UV rays of sun. The patient presents with sunburn on exposure to sunlight. Eyes are also painful when exposed to sun and may appear bloody red.

 

3) Aquagenic Urticaria

This a very rare disease in which a patient’s skin develops severe allergic reaction, when it comes in contact with water ; development of rashes and hives are seen in any part of the body. The concept of holy water, to ward off evil entities like vampires, may be linked to similar illness.

 

4) Rabies

Bite by infected animals , is what causes Rabies in human beings. The reason is transmission of a virus, that affects the nervous system of human beings. Although most people know that bite by an infected dog causes rabies, but the fact remains that animals in the wild like Bats – also causes rabies. So after a Bat bite, if a person developed signs and symptoms of Furious Rabies, like – Insomnia (Lack of sleep ), Agitation, Hallucination, Hypersalivation (Production of excess saliva), difficulty in swallowing, Hydrophobia (excessive fear of water due to difficulty in swallowing it)- again giving rise to myth of fear of holy water ; in paralytic rabies, the person may slip into coma, and may not respond to outside stimulus. These people may have been confused to be vampires in old times – getting bitten by bat and fear of (holy) water, making things more confusing.

 

5) Lupus

It is a autoimmune disease, in which photosensitivity is present ie skin lesion that appear or worsen with sun exposure.

 

Zombies

Fiction

Commonly known as the walking dead, these are described in popular folklore as dead people who have come back to life, but do not have any thinking or judgemental capability. They are mostly shown as individuals with neck twisted in one direction and rather a slow and bizarre gait. In modern days, many Hollywood movies have tried it to portray it like some kind of infection – mostly viral. World war Z, was a very popular Hollywood block buster, which explored the fictional concept in a scientific way.

zombie
zombie

Medical Facts

Luckily till date there has been no medical disease that exactly replicates the zombies of literature, but there are some medical conditions that does mimic certain selective features. Still they are known as Strange diseases in the world. Some of them are –

 

1) Walking Corpse Syndrome

This is also known as Cotard Delusion, this is a mental disease. The people suffering from this syndrome believe that, they are already dead, and their body is decaying, and they have lost their internal organs; but in spite of all that they are immortal. They ignore their hygiene and health, thereby getting a rather unhuman appearance.

 

2) Torticollis

This is rather a much simpler condition, in which the patients are absolutely mentally fit ; but the only problem is that neck is twisted in one direction, with restricted mobility. There are a multiple of reasons, which may cause this condition; and so they may be temporary or permanent. The patient may have one shoulder higher than another, and chin tilted to one side. Sometimes patient may have difficulty in performing routine tasks and difficulty in normal social interactions, along with difficulty in walking in normal fashion ; thereby causing depression and isolation.

 

Witch

Fiction

This rather unfortunate categorization, has caused multiple tragedies in Europe in middle ages, and continue to do so in the modern world too, in certain poor and undeveloped parts of the world. Religious persecution and social ostracization has destroyed many happy households. Witches were classically described as old women, with ugly facial appearance, with multiple warts and swellings. Although history gives ample evidence of normal appearing females burnt at stake, but here we will restrict our discussion on only those with disfigured appearance.

 

Medical Facts

The dark ages were an era of ignorance and science was still in an infant stage, so people had no ideas about the disease that can cause distorted appearance. Some of the disease which can cause some similar appearances are

 

1) Neurofibromatosis

This disease is divided into many subtypes. But the important features are – Multiple tumorous growth in the skin, which may sometimes grow into huge size and give a grotesque appearance to the persons concerned. Curved spine may be present, due to bone deformity. Children may have short stature and larger head size. Sometimes hearing deformities and balance problems may also occur. In the olden times, people did not realise that these problems may be due to gene defects and related things, on their own convenience, they went for easy categorisation of these unfortunate people as witches.

 

2) Progeria

This is again a disease caused by genetic mutation, in which children age very fast and soon start looking like old people and usually die in their twenties. So this can be described in the most simple terms as – premature ageing seen in children. Bald old people, who were actually children; were vulnerable to attacks by ill educated people, who found these unfortunate individuals, easy to blame for their own short comings. “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button “ and “Paa” are some examples how even Hollywood and Bollywood movies (respectively), have been influenced by this disease.

Dermal Neurofibroma
Dermal Neurofibroma

Possessed (Demonic Possession)

Fiction:

Thanks to movies like – The Exorcist, The Evil Dead, The Conjuring ; common people have a lot’s of idea about being possessed. Medical fraternity has never believed in these kind of paranormal activity (with all due respects, to all people concerned) and have tried to find more rational explanation. Paranormal activities are also popular as Strange diseases in the world. 

 

Medical Facts

Some diseases that may cause some features mimicking the above condition.

 

1) Somnabulism

Commonly known as sleepwalking. In this the person concerned, rises from bed, while he/she is supposed to be asleep and performs complex actions (which a normal sleeping person cannot perform). The individual can’t be awaked from this state easily and later has no memory of the events done by him or her. This condition has been related to stress and many times recovery is seen, when the precipitating factor was removed.

 

2) Catalepsy

This is a disease of the Nervous system in which a person suffers from certain muscular rigidity and abnormal postures, without any external precipitating cause. The person’s pain threshold also increases. From time to time, the body and limbs of such person become rigid and show abnormal positions. Catalepsy is seen associated, with other diseases like Parkinson syndrome and Epilepsy. It can also be caused by Drug abuse. No doubt, most the people would be terrified, to see their loved once, suffering from such conditions. But it is always better to seek medical attention in these cases, rather than that of a preacher (with all due respects).

Statue of sleepwalker
Statue of sleepwalker

Giants

Fiction

Most children fairy tale would be incomplete without scary giants, attacking terrified ordinary people. From time to time many movies in Hollywood and other places tried, to entertain and thrill viewers with these terrible creatures, but in real life are the actual facts so terrifying ? The answer is a resounding No.

 

Medical Facts

The commonest cause of Gigantism in the modern world, is a benign tumour of the pituitary gland. This tumour causes excess growth hormone secretion, causing increased height , large hands and feet with thick toes and fingers, coarse facial appearance with prominent jaw and forehead. So most of these Giants are unfortunate individuals, who need medical treatment.

 

Elfs

Fiction

We all fell in love with “Legolas” in Lord of The Rings Movie. An Elf, with golden hairs and a tall and handsome appearance, he was the personification of, what a Fairy tale hero looks like. But do Elf really exist ? Or is just a figment of imagination.

 

Medical Facts

In WILLIAMS SYNDROME(ALSO KNOWN AS ELFIN FACIES SYNDROME) -- , a person may present with facial appearance known as Elfin Facies, which has some similarity to those, that described about Elves. In this the person suffers from wide mouth , dental underdevelopment, smaller mandible, full cheeks, raised Nose, widely spaced eyes and prominent forehead. These individuals have friendly disposition, remarkable verbal abilities and liking for music. On the downside, they suffer from serious heart and blood vessel problems.

Williams syndrome
Williams syndrome

THE WALKING & TALKING TREES (TREEMAN)

Fiction

 In fairy tales we often come across, trees which can talk walk and interact with human beings. In JRR Tolkien’s Fantasy – The Lord Of The Rings ; a race of beings called as Ents, are described, which talk – walk and finally also fight against the Bad Guy in the story, but can something like this happen in the real world? Know more about this Strange diseases in the world. 

 

Medical Facts

There are some diseases which does distort the human body in a certain way, where the body starts to appear like a part of tree (But never actually becomes a tree).

 

1) Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis

It is a disease, which causes multiple diffuse wart like outgrowth in either a small area of body or very large area. It is caused due to human papilloma virus infection. A genetic role has also been postulated. With serious involvement, the effected person’s body parts start resembling the trunks of an Tree. In recent times ( 2016), a Bangladeshi citizen named Abul Bajandar, was admitted into Dhaka Medical College & Hospital with the mentioned condition and underwent multiple surgeries, for the improvement in his condition.

 

2) Elephantiasis

This is a symptom caused by different disease, where a person’s body parts (usually limbs), swell into excessively large sizes. Filariasis is one of the commonest cause, where the body limbs may become so hugely enlarged, that it resembles the trunk of a tree. Elephantiasis may also be caused due to lymphatic channel involvement by inflammation or cancer.

epidermodysplasia verruciformis
epidermodysplasia verruciformis

Mermaids

Fiction

Beautiful females with lower part of the body like of a fish, found swimming in seas and rivers. That would be the classical description of mermaids, found in the old Fantasy tales, where the bravery of sailors and ruthlessness of pirates, in an bygone era would be described. We all read those books with fascination, and laughed at the writers imagination. But was all of it, just imagination ??

 

Medical Facts

SIRENOMALIA (MERMAID SYNDROME) is a very rare disease, in which abnormality of lower limbs and lower spine is present. Most individuals have partial or complete fusion of legs. Most children die because of associated system disorders in, the first year of life ; but very rarely survival up to adulthood has been recorded.

Sirenomelia
Sirenomelia

Cyclops (of Greek Mythology)

Fiction

Although descriptions have been found in other popular folklore too, but it was Greek mythology which first introduced the world to the Cyclops. According to them, they were a race of one eyed giants, who roamed the earth unmindful of the norms or conventions of the world.

 

Medical Facts

Fortunately no medical condition has been described, which describes adult human beings, with features described previously. But in unborn embryos and some stillbirth, a condition which resembles the described features has been found, it is known as CYCLOPIA OR CYCLOCEPHALY. In this condition. The child in these condition are born without nose or nostrils, and in the middle of forehead, there is a large eye, without any eyelid or eyebrow. If these new-borns, who died at birth or soon after, influenced the legendary stuff about Cyclops is not established.

Cyclopia
Cyclopia

Alice in Wonderland

Fiction

The Fantasy Novel “ Alice in Wonderland” was written in 19th Century by English Author – Lewis Carroll, in which the main protagonist – Alice, falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world. The story that follows isn’t exactly logical, but is entertaining and provides a message at the same time.

Alice in wonderland
Alice in wonderland

Medical Facts

ALICE IN WONDERLAND SYNDROME ‘ is a neurological disorder, in which a persons perception is severely altered. Vision is affected and things may look smaller than they are, or larger, or nearer or further. Sometimes sensations like touch and hearing also may be affected . There may be severe headache. It can be caused due to a viral infection or due to drug abuse. Body images are altered, as described and faced by the main character – Alice, in the novel.

 

Sleeping Beauty

Fiction

17th Century fairy tale written by Charles Perrault, describes a story about how a young beautiful princess, falls under the evil spell of a witch and spends the next 100 years sleeping (which she does in a secluded and isolated area) & finally the curse is lifted by arrival of an young brave handsome prince.

Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty

Medical Facts

 

1) Sleeping Beauty Syndrome or Kleine Levin Syndrome

is a sleep disorder, which is characterised by an recurrent episodes of excessive time spent on sleeping. Some people also develop increased hunger and increased sex drive. Sometimes during these episodes the person sleeps for most of the day and night hours. This medical disorder can also severely effect the social and professional lives of the people concerned and patients try to isolate themselves further. It has been postulated that some form of brain dysfunction may cause the disease, although some association with viral infection has also been noted.

 

2) Sleeping Sickness

is a disease caused by infection by protozoan(parasite), Trypanosoma brucei. There are two stages of the disease. In the first stage, there is fever, headache, joint pain. Few weeks later, the second stage develops, which involves the nervous system, and causes personality changes, lethargy and sleep disturbances (daytime sleep episodes and night-time period of wakefulness )and may even cause death.

 

So it is quite obvious that all those story on which we grew up does have some kind of association with real facts. Were they influenced by the authors of those stories, who may have witnessed/experienced the marvels of nature (or the accident ) somehow, is something we will never know. But it is a fact, that truth is always more than what is apparent to the eye on first look, so to know the truth, maybe we just need to look closer and deeper.


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