For most people, the biggest day-to-day health concerns they face are stomach bugs, migraines and the common cold. The same can’t be said for the unfortunate few who are born with rare medical diseases, which the EU classifies as conditions that affect fewer than 5 in every 10,000 people. Here is a list of ten of the most rare and mysterious diseases in medical history.
Kuru, aka laughing death
Luckily for the rest of the world, this disease only ever affected the tribal Fore people of New Guinea. The disease was characterized by sudden manic outbursts of laughter. Attention was drawn to the disease in the 1950s and doctors from around the world were eager to study it. As the disease developed, a sufferer would develop shaking limbs, become unable to stand, become cross-eyed, lose the ability to speak and eventually die. An American physician, Carleton Gajdusek, discovered that the cause of the disease was the tribe’s cannibalistic funeral traditions.
Cyclic vomiting syndrome
Cyclic vomiting syndrome, or CVS, is a rare disease that causes sufferers to experience extreme and recurrent episodes of nausea and vomiting. These episodes can last from a few hours to as long as several days, and may completely incapacitate the sufferer. Associated symptoms, which are almost permanently present in CVS sufferers, include pallor, lethargy and headaches. Although the exact cause of the disease is unknown, it affects children more often than adults.
Progeria, or Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria, affects only about one in every 8,000,000 children born. The genetic disease is characterized by rapid physical aging, with the result that as a young child, a sufferer may have the appearance of a small elderly person. On average, sufferers don’t live to more than 13 years. Current medical treatment focuses on addressing the disease symptoms – no cure is known.
Known also by its scientific name, aquagenic urticarial, an allergy to water is known to have affected only 30 people. Although incredibly rare, the Medical Review Board has acknowledged it as a condition. It generally occurs in adult women, often as a consequence of the hormonal imbalance brought on by giving birth. In 2009, a case occurred in the United Kingdom. A 21-year-old mother developed the condition. She developed serious rashes after being caught in the rain and drinking water became impossible. She was confined to a diet of Diet Coke, and can shower for only 10 seconds a week!
Fields’ disease is the rarest disease in the world. It’s named after the twins Catherine and Kirstie Fields – the only two people known to be affected. So far, doctors have identified it only as some kind of neuromuscular disease, characterised by progressive muscle deterioration. It continues to be studied around the world. Unfortunately the disease has already put the girls in wheelchairs and made simple tasks like writing difficult, and speaking impossible.
A guest post from Jeff, who is fascinated by medical mysteries and writes for www.medicalaid-quotes.co.za, a South African health insurance guide that helps you find out what chronic conditions are covered by medical aid schemes.