Strange Medical Conditions That Really Exist

Apr 24, 2019 Kayode Oseh

Uncombable Hair Syndrome


A rare condition gives people a wild hairdo. Called uncombable hair syndrome (UHS), it makes hair, well, difficult to comb. Only around 100 cases are known, and one of them is Taylor McGowan. When she was born around two years ago, she appeared fairly normal.

By the time she was five months old, Taylor grew the trademark silvery-blonde locks of UHS. Her parents noticed the super frizz, but a nurse told them that the hair would soon fall out. Taylor’s grandmother was the first to realize what was going on when she found photos of other UHS babies. The rarity of the condition made her parents dismiss the chance of Taylor having it.

However, genetic tests proved that the Chicago baby was indeed a member of this funky-looking group. From each surprised parent, she had inherited a copy of the PADI3 gene mutation. Normal hair shafts are smooth and round, but the mutation sprouts hair with grooves—and that’s why she looks like a baby Einstein.


The Religious Tumor


In 2016, researchers published an interesting case. It did not end well for the woman involved (she died eight months after diagnosis), but her tumor could explain sudden mystical experiences in some people.

The unnamed patient lived in Spain. The 60-year-old was described by family and friends as a happy person. Although she believed in God, she was not religious. Over two months, she experienced an abrupt change. Her mood was quiet, even sad, and increasingly, the woman turned to religious writings. She even had meetings with the Virgin Mary.

An MRI and biopsy diagnosed her with an aggressive form of brain cancer. During the next five weeks, her treatment included radiation, chemotherapy, and antipsychotic medication. Tellingly, the elderly patient’s conversations with the Virgin Mary ceased.

An overview of the case could find no other trigger for the hyper-religiosity except the tumor. How the cancer caused spiritual fervor remains unknown, but the woman’s right temporal lobe appeared to have played a role. Previous cases involving mystical experiences have been linked to this brain region.


Walking Corpse Syndrome


This gory-sounding illness makes people believe that they are dead. Officially called Cotard’s syndrome, it was first described in 1880. Almost no research was done to understand the rare condition.

In recent years, scientists sieved through the Mayo Clinic’s records dated from 1996 to 2016 to identify more cases. They found 12. The four women and eight men all had nihilistic delusions. They believed that they were either dead or dying or that their organs were missing or in the process of being destroyed. Oddly, three of the patients had the same “death.” They all claimed to have been killed by medical staff.

In the past, Cotard’s was believed to be a psychiatric condition. But the Mayo study found that the brain played a role, one that was not mental. Although eight patients had a psychiatric diagnosis, including schizophrenia, five displayed neurological symptoms like headaches and seizures.

The physical evidence for Cotard’s also received a strong boost when scans found seven of the individuals had brain lesions. Approaching it as a neurological rather than exclusively psychiatric condition could one day solve its cause and help develop better therapies.

Girls Turning Into Boys


In the Dominican Republic, Turkey, and New Guinea, some parents welcome the birth of a new daughter. When puberty hits, however, the child actually turns into a boy. They are called the Guevedoces, a word that means “penis at 12.” These little girls were never female.

In affected boys, an enzyme deficiency impedes the development of male sex organs. At birth, they fool everyone so convincingly that the children are given female names and raised as girls. Come puberty and the influx of testosterone, the Guevedoces finally develop their male genitalia. As adults, their height, beards, and testes are slightly undersized, but they live as men and can have children.

Sometimes, only their names give away their feminine beginnings. Some never adopt male names. Although the condition is incredibly rare, around 1 percent of boys born in Salinas, a village in the Dominican Republic, are Guevedoces.


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