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Biggest Medical Mysteries

By Jeff Hayward

Halloween is just around the corner, and that means it’s time for the scary and the weird to be put into the spotlight. While there are ghosts and goblins (which some may argue are real), there are also very real medical mysteries that will put a shiver down your spine.

Some of these are actual conditions, although rare, while others are more isolated cases that had doctors baffled. In the spirit of Halloween, let’s treat ourselves to 12 tales of the bizarre and unexplained…

1. The Ageless Girl talks about a particular case involving a girl named Brooke Greenberg, who is only 30-inches tall and weighs 30-pounds. That might be normal in the case of a toddler, but Brooke is 16-years old, it adds.

The source adds that aside from her hair and nails, she hasn’t grown since the age of 4 – as if stuck in time. Doctors have tried growth hormones, but have had no success. “Researchers have been studying her DNA in search of a genetic mutation that might unlock the fountain of youth that keeps her young,” it adds.

2. Disembarking From Normal

Reader’s Digest says there’s a condition out there called disembarkment syndrome, and it basically makes you feel “wobbly” like you’ve just stepped off a boat – for a very long time.

The feeling of being a bit unsteady on your feet usually goes away in a short time after a boat ride, but for those with this syndrome, “their bodies and brains can never shake that feeling of swaying and rocking,” it adds. It’s tough to treat, although it usually goes away on its own within a year, notes the source.

3. Mermaids Are Real – Sort Of

There’s something called mermaid syndrome, and unfortunately, it’s not as magical as folklore would have you imagine it. There’s no beautiful tail and freedom to roam the sea; instead, this syndrome (also called sirenomelia) causes the legs to fuse together due to a birth defect.

In fact, the source says newborns with this affliction usually don’t live for very long, but there has been at least one case where the patient with this rare deformity has lived until 27 – the oldest ever among those with the syndrome. Her name was Tiffany Yorks, and she passed away in 2016. Interestingly, sources note she was able to swim without aid before the age of one.

4. The Strange Case of Garlic Scent mentions the case of Gloria Ramirez, who died in 1994 of kidney failure – or at least that’s what’s in her medical records. While unfortunately this sort of thing happens regularly, there was more to it in this incidence.

Gloria was rushed into the ER “covered in an oily sheen, with a garlic-like odor coming from her mouth,” says the source. When doctors drew blood, even the tube has a “strange smell” coming from it. Hospital staff started falling ill, and the hospital was evacuated, it adds. “After an investigation, there were many theories and hypotheses for what happened, but no concrete evidence,” says Buzzfeed.

5. This Story Has Legs discusses a story about a woman with giant legs – her name is Mandy Sellars, and her legs weight 210-pounds on their own, according to the source.

Now 34, she has born with abnormally large feet and legs, and they have continued to grow “at an alarming rate,” it adds. While the condition has mostly baffled medical professionals, some believe she suffers from something called Proteus syndrome, which can lead to partial gigantism. However, Sellars doesn’t let the condition slow down – the source says she lives independently, does volunteer work, and drives.

6. A Brain With Computer-Like Memory

Imagine you could do a Google search of your brain for a specific detail of a specific time – well, if you have something called highly superior autobiographical memory, it’s possible.

Reader’s Digest says people with this condition (or ability, depending how you look at it) can “recall almost anything from their memories in minute detail from events in their life to conversations they’ve had.” The first case of this was confirmed in 2006 in a woman named Jill Price, although others (including children) have been identified since then, it adds. Doctors are trying to figure this one out, but apparently brain scans of people with this superhuman memory shows differences in brain structure from those with typical memories.

7. Seizures From Doing Math

Many of us have joked that math problems will give us a headache or worse, but in one man’s case, it was the truth. Buzzfeed notes a paper that appeared in the Annals of Neurology mentions a patient that had seizures whenever he tried to solve math problems in his head.

The source says the patient started having seizures at 12-years old, and they first appeared when he was calculating scores during card games, or even while doing crosswords. It was quite specific, as well: apparently solving multiplication and division problems triggered the episodes, while addition and subtraction didn’t. It may be related to a condition called epilepsia arithmetices, a form of epilepsy caused by mental arithmetic, but only a “handful of patients” have ever been diagnosed with it, it adds.

8. Being Allergic to Water

Water is an essential element in sustaining life – so imagine if you were allergic to it. Reader’s Digest says this allergy exists (it’s medically known as aquagenic urticaria), although less than 100-people worldwide have been diagnosed with it.

The condition causes patients to break out in hives when their skin is exposed to water, and researchers are diving deep to try and determine a cause with no success yet. There are some theories, such as allergens hiding in the water, but there’s still no treatment available for this rare affliction.

9. The Sleeping Illness

We all know kids love to sleep in sometimes, but in the case of a 7-year old boy named Wyatt Shaw, it was taken to an extreme. Fox News explains the boy was celebrating a wedding and then fell into a deep sleep later, which seems pretty normal.

What’s not normal is that when his mother woke him the next day, the boy was complaining of a headache and stomachache before falling back asleep. He was taken to hospital and remained asleep for the next 10-days before snapping back into the conscious world. While his case is a mystery, he now takes a medication designed to treat seizures that has helped somewhat (although he’s developed problems with walking and talking), it adds.

10. A Stiff Reality

Reader’s Digest says there’s such thing as something called “stiff person syndrome,” and it’s a progressive condition marked by “extreme stiffness, rigidity, and painful spasms in their muscles.” In fact, in some cases the spasms can be so bad they can fracture bones, it adds.

The condition (SPS) is linked to an uninhibited nervous system, which can actually cause an increase in muscle activity, it notes. Researchers are looking into an autoimmune component of the syndrome, whether the immune system is wrongly attacking the brain and spinal cord. “Although scientists are on the cusp of discovering what could cause this disabling disorder, they still have yet to understand everything about SPS,” it explains.

11. The Boy Who Didn’t Eat

Usually at around 12-years of age, a boy’s appetite will explode and they will want to eat everything in sight. However, Reader’s Digest tells the tale of a boy named Landon Jones from Iowa, who woke up one day without any appetite or thirst.

In a year’s time, the boy went from 104-pounds to 68-pounds, and doctors were “baffled by his condition” even after several brain scans, as well as physical and psychiatric evaluations. Doctors still haven’t found a cause, but some hypothesize it may be linked to a dysfunction of his brain’s hypothalamus, which is responsible for many important functions including appetite, it adds.

12. The Talking Tumor

Buzzfeed tells the 1984 story of a woman in England that heard voices telling her she had a brain tumor. The result is that she was treated for hallucinatory psychosis, a mental condition.

However, the messages in her head persisted – and they were apparently specific, telling her the exact location of the tumor. The woman (who was previously considered healthy) insisted she undergo a brain scan. Buzzfeed notes that when she was granted a brain scan, the tumor was found in the exact location the voices told her it was.

Writer, General Health

Jeff has more than 15 years of experience writing professionally about health, travel and the arts among other subjects. He continuously looks to improve his own overall health through exercise, diet and mindfulness. He is also a proud stay-at-home dad that loves taking photographs both professionally and as a hobby.

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