#11: Tree Man Syndrome – Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis
This is one of the most bizarre and horrifying diseases you probably never heard of until now. Commonly referred to as “Tree Man Syndrome”, this disease is an autosomal recessive genetic hereditary skin disorder. It’s characterized by the growth of brown, scaly papules that look like tree bark, particularly on the hands and feet. Sufferers of this gruesome disease can get some relief by having the growths removed, but as of now, there is no cure and they will continue to grow back over time. Before you go off to the doctor to get tested, thank your lucky stars that this disease is extremely rare.
#10: Stone Man Syndrome – Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP)
Next up on the list we have Stone Man Syndrome – an extremely rare connective tissue disease. It’s caused by a mutation in the body’s repair mechanism which causes muscles, tendons and ligaments to spontaneously ossify – meaning they undergo the process of transforming into bone. Surgery may be done to remove the bone growths, but the body reverts to the same process of creating more bone during healing. To give you an idea of just how rare this bizarre disease is, only 700 cases worldwide have ever been reported.
#9: Werewolf Syndrome – Hypertrichosis
Werewolf Syndrome causes the uncontrollable growth of hair on most or all parts of the body. Someone afflicted with this disease so closely resembles a werewolf – particularly their face – that historians suggest the legend of the werewolf may have originated from someone with this syndrome, hence its name. There is currently no cure for this disease, whose sufferers typically start exhibiting symptoms in early adolescence. Some might say that those with Werewolf Syndrome actually had an easier time in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, where they regularly joined traveling circuses as “half man, half beast” acts.
#8: Vampire Disease – Porphyria
Porphryia is a disease caused by the buildup of certain chemicals related to red blood cell proteins. Sufferers of the disease have an aversion to highly acidic foods and an extreme sensitivity to sunlight. When exposed to sun, the infected can develop extreme itching, blisters, painful swelling and more. The disease also causes the gums to recede, giving off the appearance of a sharp set of fangs. Due to its physical symptoms, historians suggest that Porphyria is at least in part responsible for the legend of the Vampire.
#7: Walking Corpse Syndrome – Cotard’s Delusion
Cotard’s Delusion is a rare mental illness in which the affected believes they are actually dead. How freaky is that? These poor souls walk around thinking they are either literally or figuratively dead. They feel as if they do not exist as a person, have lost all their blood, specific internal organs or a combination of these symptoms. Luckily, doctors have had some success in treating patients with a combination of anti-psychotic and antidepressant drugs.
#6: Alien Hand Syndrome
Alien Hand Syndrome – or AHS – is a rare neurological disorder that causes a person to have spontaneous, uncontrollable movements of their hand without even being aware of their actions. It generally affects just one hand, and there are reports that people suffering from the disorder have used their healthy hand to try and control the hand that’s moving uncontrollably! Although this is a rare disorder, at least one person you may have heard of suffers from it – the rapper Common, who recently detailed his struggles with the disorder in a 2015 interview.
#5: Premature Old Age – Progeria
Progeria – the disease that causes premature old age – is perhaps one of the saddest diseases on our last. It’s an extremely rare genetic disorder in which a person starts to exhibit signs of aging when they’re only a young child – typically within their first few months of life. The disease progresses rapidly and causes the affected to die in their mid-teens to early twenties. Progeria was brought into the spotlight by Robin William’s character in the 1996 film Jack.
#4: Blue Man Disease – Methemoglobinemia
This disorder is characterized by a higher than normal presence of Methemoglobin rather than Hemoglobin in a person’s blood. Signs and symptoms of the disease include shortness of breath, change in mental status, seizures, fatigue, headaches and more. The reason it’s called Blue Man Disease is that due to the high levels of Methemoglobin present in the blood, the affected literally start to turn blue, as seen in the picture above.
#3: Bubble Boy Syndrome – Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disorder (SCID)
Bubble Boy Syndrome – Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disorder (SCID) – is characterized be the body’s inability to effectively produce T cells and B cells as a result of a rare genetic mutation. This means that the body has almost zero ability to fight off diseases of any kind, even a mild common cold, due to its compromised immune system. As a result, those affected with the disease have to live in a completely sterile environment inside a “bubble”. In popular culture, there was a 2001 comedy film called Bubble Boy that followed a man with the disease. There was also an episode of Seinfeld in which George and Jerry form a peculiar relationship with a boy that lives in a bubble as a result of SCID.
#2: Mermaid Syndrome – Sirenomelia
Sirenomelia is an extremely rare congenital deformity in which a person’s legs are fused together at birth, giving them the appearance of a mermaid. The deformity occurs in approximately 1 in 100,000 live births, making it about as rare as conjoined twins. Unfortunately the progress for this deformity is very grim – most babies born with Sirenomelia die within 1 day as a result of complications to their kidney and urinary bladder function.
#1: Guinea Worm Disease – Dracunculiasis
Guinea Worm Disease – officially called Dracunculiasis – is an infection caused by the Guinea Worm. A person can become infected when they drink water contaminated by water fleas that carry guinea worm larvae. Typically, symptoms don’t present themselves until nearly a year after infection. At that point, the person will develop a painful, burning blister somewhere on their skin, typically somewhere on the foot or near the lower extremities. Thankfully, the CDC has made great strides in preventing and treating the disease. In 1986, there were nearly 3.5 million reported cases; by 2014, that number was down to just 126.