14 Scary Diseases You've Probably Never Heard Of (PHOTOS)

geographic tongue

You know how every so often you Google some random physical ailment you might be having and come across a bunch of diseases so horrifying that you end up feeling grateful for your funny-shaped mole or weird cough or whatever else sent you on that infectious diseases internet hunt in the first place?

Well, the next time you need to be reminded of your relative good health, just check out this slideshow of truly awful maladies and be grateful how healthy you really are. Warning to hypochondriacs: You may never sleep again.


Image via Andrew Kippen/Flickr

  • "Guinea Worm Disease" (Dracunculiasis)

    1

    A worm that infests the human body through the drinking of contaminated water, "larvae are released and migrate through the intestinal wall into body tissues, where they develop into adult worms." The worms keep moving through the body, which is extremely painful and eventually come out through the skin (usually on the feet). Also causes skin ulcers, fever, nausea and vomiting -- and guess what? There's no cure. THE HORROR!

  • Aquatenic Urticaria (Allergy to Water)

    2

    An extremely rare condition which causes sufferers to break out in itchy and/or painful lesions when exposed to water. There's no cure for this unbelievably awful disease, and it tends to afflict women more than men (of course).

  • Hypertrichosis (Werewolf Syndrome)

    3

    You've probably seen pictures of people afflicted with congenital hypertrichosis terminalis. Causing excessive all-over hair growth, there is no cure for this odd affliction.

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  • "Tree Man" Disease

    4

    An immune deficiency which makes it impossible to fight Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Type 2, this disease allows the virus to “hijack" skin cells, resulting in tree-like growths all over the body. Warts can be surgically removed but do grow back (anti-viral medications can help).

  • Methemoglobinemia (Blue Skin Disorder)

    5

    A blood disorder which makes the hemoglobin unable to release enough oxygen to body tissues, causing chocolate-colored blood and blue skin. Usually genetic, this disease doesn't generally cause any other significant health problems. 

  • Fish Odor Syndrome (Trimethylaminuria)

    6

    A mutated gene is usually to blame for this strange condition, in which an excessive excretion of trimethylaminuria (TMA) in the urine, sweat, and breath causes a person's body odor to smell like rotting fish. Symptoms are managed with supplements, special soaps and some medications.

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  • Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva

    7

    A disorder in which muscle tissue and connective tissue (like tendons and ligaments) are gradually replaced by bone, which ends up causing constricted movement, inflammation and muscle swelling, among other complications.

  • Dissecting Cellulitis of the Scalp

    8

    An infection and resulting inflammation of the scalp which results in loss of hair follicles and raised, pus-filled lesions that can break open. Unfortunately, there are no particularly effective treatments for this awful malady (which usually strikes men of color between 20 and 40 years of age).

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  • Filariasis

    9

    Like Guinea Worm Disease, Filariasis is a parasitic disease caused by microscopic roundworms. Unlike Guinea Worm Disease, this one causes blockage of the lymphatic system, which leads to disfiguring elephantiasis (swelling and hardening/thickening of the skin). Spread from person to person by mosquitoes.

  • Blaschko's Lines

    10

    Did you know people have stripes? That's right: Blaschko's lines are patterns of normal cell development in the skin, and under ordinary circumstances, they're invisible -- but certain diseases of the skin or mucosa make the stripes show on some people.

  • Parry-Romberg Syndrome

    11

    An acquired (as opposed to inherited) condition which causes the skin and soft tissue on half of the face to shrink (atrophy) and can lead to neurological problems including severe facial pain and seizures. It's more common in women than men, and symptoms usually occur before the age of 20.

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  • "Alien Hand" Syndrome

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    Defined as "the feeling that one's hand is possessed by a force outside of ones control" ("alien hands" have been known to break things, hurt people and try to stop the non-alien hands from doing important tasks). This usually occurs after some sort of injury to the brain and there is no treatment.

  • Cotard's Delusion

    13

    Also known as "Walking Corpse Syndrome," this very rare mental illness causes patients to believe that they are dead or non-existent. They might even feel that their internal organs are missing or putrefying. While this disease isn't fully understood, treatment with antidepressants and other mood stabilizing drugs can help.

  • Geographic Tongue

    14

    A harmless but potentially painful condition, geographic tongue happens when patches on the surface of the tongue are missing papillae (those tiny bumps) and look like smooth red or white "islands," sometimes with raised yellow borders. No one's sure what causes it, but geographic tongue may be linked to psoriasis.

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