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10 Strange Medical Conditions & Events

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Millions of people all over the world are affected by bizarre medical
conditions.  The human brain is the most highly complex organ in the body.
The brain is at the center of the nervous system and if damaged the
consequences can be great.  Hundreds of bizarre and abnormal human
syndromes have been recorded in modern history.  Advances in brain
scanning technologies have allowed scientists to determine the cause of
many of these disorders, but others remain a mystery.  This article will be
examining 10 strange human medical conditions and events. 

10. Charles Bonnet Syndrome

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Charles Bonnet syndrome is a condition that causes patients with visual loss
to have complex visual hallucinations.  It was first described by Charles
Bonnet in 1760 and was incorporated into English-speaking psychiatry in
1982.  Most of the people afflicted with Charles Bonnet Syndrome are
individuals who are in the early stages of sight loss, and the hallucinations
usually begin while the person’s vision is slowly diminishing.  The most
common culprit is macular degeneration, a disease where certain light-
sensing cells in the retina malfunction and cause a slowly worsening blind
spot in the center of one’s vision.

People who have Charles Bonnet syndrome often see vivid yet unreal
images.  Some people have reported seeing surfaces covered in non-
existent patterns such as brickwork or tiles, while others see phantom objects
in astonishing detail, including people, animals, or buildings.  These visual
images can last for a couple seconds or for several hours, often appearing
and vanishing abruptly.  The hallucinations may consist of commonplace
items such as bottles or clothing, or creepy nonsense such as dancing
children with giant flowers for heads.  One characteristic of the hallucinations
is that they usually involve objects that are smaller than normal. 

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Sufferers understand that the hallucinations are not real.  They are only visual
and do not occur in any other senses.  People suffering from the disorder
may experience a wide variety of hallucinations.  However, images of
complex colored patterns and images of people are most common, followed
by animals, plants or trees and inanimate objects.  The hallucinations often
fit into the person's surroundings.  There is currently no effective treatment
for Charles Bonnet syndrome.  It often disappears within a year or 18
months of onset, but this can vary greatly from person to person.

9. Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia

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Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is literally defined as the "fear of the
number six hundred sixty-six (666).”  It is a fear that originated from the
Biblical verse Revelation 13:18, which indicates that the number 666 is the
Number of the Beast, linked to Satan or the Anti-Christ.  Outside of the
Christian faith, the phobia has been further popularized by various horror
films.  People suffering from this disorder will strongly avoid things related to
the number 666.  A prominent example is Nancy and Ronald Reagan who, in
1989, when moving to their home in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles, had
the address of 666 St. Cloud Road changed to 668 St. Cloud Road.

Certain women also express concerns about giving birth to a child on June 6,
2006 (abbreviated 6/6/06).  In the science community some experts have
questioned whether the condition should be classified as a phobia.
However, it has been determined that the fear is pervasive, and at times
has even impacted entire communities.  Fear of the number 666 can
manifest in many different ways, depending on the severity of the condition.
It has been described as a form of obsessive compulsive disorder.  Many
people all around the world consciously avoid having the number 666 occur
in their daily life.  People may also become particularly nervous or
uncomfortable if the number appears frequently, drawing connections
between coincidental events.

8. Möbius Syndrome

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Möbius syndrome is an extremely rare neurological disorder which is
characterized by facial paralysis and the inability to move the eyes from side
to side.  Most people who have Möbius syndrome are born with the
disorder.  The condition is represented by complete facial paralysis and
sufferers usually cannot close their eyes or form any facial expressions.
People with Möbius syndrome have normal intelligence, although their lack
of facial expression is sometimes incorrectly taken to assume that the
person is dull or unfriendly.

Möbius syndrome results from the underdevelopment of certain cranial
nerves.  It is estimated that there are, on average, 2 to 20 cases of Möbius
syndrome per million births.  People with the syndrome cannot follow objects
by moving their eyes, so they often times have to turn their heads.  Children
with Möbius syndrome may have delayed speech because of paralysis of
the lips.  However, with speech therapy, most people can develop
understandable speech.  There is no single course of medical treatment or
cure for Möbius syndrome.  Some people opt to have smile surgery, which
may provide the ability to smile, but the procedure is complex and can take
twelve hours for each side of the face.

7. Alien Hand Syndrome

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Alien hand syndrome is an unusual neurological disorder where one of the
patient's hands takes on a life of its own.  A person suffering from alien hand
syndrome will feel a normal sensation in their hand, but at certain times will
think that their hand is acting in a manner that is totally different from their
normal behavior.  The hand will often times make sudden movements and
become completely uncontrollable.  The alien hand will do whatever it wants,
which often times includes performing complex acts such as undoing buttons,
removing clothing, and manipulating tools.  Sometimes the sufferer will not
be aware of what the alien hand is doing until it is systematically brought to
their attention.

People who suffer from alien hand syndrome will often times believe that
their hand is "possessed" by some alien spirit or an entity that they may
name.  Despite movie scenes, I haven’t read about any cases where
someone actually cut off their alien hand.  However, if you decide to remove
your alien hand, be sure to keep a close eye on it, as it might have the
tendency to run off.  Alien hand syndrome is best documented in cases
where the individual has had the two hemispheres of their brain surgically
separated.  The syndrome can also occur after brain surgery, strokes, or
infections.

6. Fish Odor Syndrome

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Trimethylaminuria or fish odor syndrome is a rare metabolic disorder that
causes a defect in the normal production of the enzyme FMO3.  When
FMO3 is not working correctly the human body loses the ability to properly
break down trimethylamine (TMA).  If you don’t know what trimethylamine is,
it is really quite interesting.  Trimethylamine is an organic compound that is
colorless and flammable.  It has a strong "fishy" odor in low concentrations
and an ammonia-like odor at higher concentrations.

Trimethylamine is a product of decomposition in plants and animals.  It is the
substance mainly responsible for the odor often associated with fouling fish,
some infections, and bad breath.  A person suffering from fish odor
syndrome will experience a build-up of trimethylamine.  The compound is
then released in the person's sweat, urine, and breath, giving off a strong
fishy odor or strong body odor.  The condition seems to be more common
in women than men.  The specific odor varies depending on many known
factors, including diet, hormonal changes, stress level, amount of sweat, and
individual sense of smell.  Currently, there is no known cure or treatment for
the disorder.

5. Photic Sneeze Reflex

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Photic sneeze reflex is a dominant hereditary trait which causes sneezing
when suddenly exposed to bright light, possibly many times consecutively.
Unlike the other entries on this list, Photic sneeze reflex or ACHOO
syndrome is highly prevalent and affects 18-35% of the human population.
This means that three out of ten people reading this article are very familiar
with the fact that looking at bright light causes people to sneeze.  It has also
been reported that people who have the trait do not dislike the act of
sneezing as much as others.

The first mention of the phenomenon is attributed to Aristotle.  The probable
cause of the reflex is a malfunction in nerve signals around the trigeminal
nerve nuclei.  The trigeminal nerve is the fifth cranial nerve and is apparently
responsible for sneezing.  This particular sneeze reflex can also be brought
on by sudden inhalation of cold air or exposure to strong flavors. Any
overstimulation of nerve cells close to the trigeminal nerve can cause
sneezing.

4. Capgras Delusion

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The Capgras delusion is a disorder in which a person holds the belief that a
friend, spouse, parent or other close family member has been replaced by
an identical-looking impostor.  The Capgras delusion is officially classified
as a misidentification syndrome, which is a class of delusional beliefs that
involves the misidentification of people, places or objects.  Numerous
science fiction films have capitalized on people’s fear of being surrounded
by clones or human replicas.  People with the disorder describe a certain
“emptiness” when viewing loved ones.

Capgras delusion can be brought on by a variety of conditions.  Some of the
most common are changes in brain chemistry associated with mental
illnesses or physical trauma to the brain.  The delusion always involves the
distinct feeling that the people around you have been replaced by impostors.
Currently, scientists are uncertain of what causes Capgras delusion. Some
of the explanations include psychological dissonance or unidentified
structural problems in the brain.  Capgras delusion is very rare and little is
known about how to treat it.

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A similar condition is Fregoli delusion.  The Fregoli delusion is a rare disorder in
which a person holds a belief that different people are in fact a single person who
changes appearance or is in disguise.
Similar to Capgras delusion, psychiatrists
believe Fregoli delusion is related to a breakdown in normal face perception.
People with Fregoli syndrome hold the belief that familiar people (family members,
friends, etc.) have been malevolently disguised to appear as strangers.  However,
instead of one imposter, the sufferer believes that two separate people are the
culprits.  To make the situation a bit more confusing, the patient feels that the two
separate people are actually the same person in disguise. 

3. Cotard Delusion

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The Cotard delusion is a rare brain disorder in which a person holds a
delusional belief that they are dead.  Patients who have the disorder might
also feel that they do not exist or have lost all their blood or internal organs.
People suffering from a severe case of Cotard delusion will begin to deny
the existence of the self.  These individuals will often time feel as if they
have been taken to hell or are being controlled by a demon force.

Cotard delusion is related to Capgras syndrome, as both disorders are
thought to result from a disconnection between the brain areas that
recognize faces and produce emotions.  The disconnection creates a sense
that the person’s own face is not their own, which creates the assumption
that they are dead or zombie-like.  Cotard's syndrome is encountered
primarily in psychoses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  Rarely,
the syndrome can include delusions of immortality.

2. Exploding Head Syndrome

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Exploding head syndrome is a condition that causes the sufferer to
occasionally experience a tremendously loud noise inside their head.  The
noise is usually described as the sound of an explosion, a loud roar, waves
crashing against rocks, loud voices, screams, or ringing.  This noise usually
occurs within an hour or two of falling asleep, but is not necessarily the result
of a dream and can happen while awake as well.

The sound is perceived as extremely loud, but it is usually not accompanied
by pain.  However, people with exploding head syndrome do experience
strong anxiety and ultimate fear surrounding the events.  Exploding head
syndrome attacks are often accompanied by perceived flashes of light.  The
condition is also known as "auditory sleep starts."  The cause of exploding
head syndrome is not known, although some physicians have reported a
correlation between attacks and stress. 

The condition may develop at any time during life and women suffer from it
slightly more often than men.  Attacks can be a one-time event or
reoccurring.  Some sufferers have familiarized themselves with the disorder
and no longer consciously experience fear or anxiety surrounding the
strange occurrences.  However, others develop severe sleeping disorders in
fear of exploding head syndrome. 

1. Foreign Accent Syndrome

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Foreign accent syndrome is a rare medical condition involving speech
production that usually occurs as a side effect of severe brain injury, such as
a stroke or head trauma.  People who suffer from the disorder suddenly
begin to pronounce their native language with a foreign accent.  The patient
doesn’t suddenly gain knowledge of a foreign language, but only adopts a
foreign accent while speaking their native language.  For example, an
American native speaker of English might sound as though they speak with a
south-eastern English accent, or a native British speaker might speak with a
New York American accent.  It is an extremely rare disorder and between
1941 and 2009 there have been only sixty recorded cases of foreign accent
syndrome.

In1941, a young Norwegian woman named Astrid L. suffered a serious head
injury from flying shrapnel during a German air-raid.  After apparently
recovering from the injury she was left with what sounded like a strong
German accent and was ultimately shunned by her fellow Norwegians.  In
January of 2006 an Australian man suffered a stroke as a result of valium
abuse.  When he awoke his friends noticed that he spoke with a mixture of
Irish and American accents, sometimes swapping between the two in mid-
sentence. 

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In 2008 Cindy Lou Romberg of Port Angeles, Washington, who had suffered
a brain injury 17 years earlier, developed foreign accent syndrome after a
neck adjustment from her chiropractor.  A visit to the hospital ruled out a
stroke. Afterwards she spoke with a Russian accent and even appeared to
make the grammatical mistakes of a Russian speaking English, as if English
was not her native language.  In 2010 the first case associated with severe
migraine was recorded.  Sarah Colwill, a frequent migraine sufferer from
Devon in the UK, experienced a headache so extreme that she had to call an
ambulance.  When she later awoke in the hospital her accent sounded
Chinese.

One More

Target Fixation

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Target fixation isn’t a syndrome, but rather a process by which the brain is
focused so intently on an observed object that the person’s awareness of
other obstacles or hazards is diminished.  The person can become so
fixated on the target that they will forget to take the necessary action to
avoid it, thus colliding with the object.  The process can be a common issue
for motorcyclists and mountain bikers.  Bikers who experience target fixation
and have an accident usually don’t realize what happened until after they
have crashed.


The term "target fixation" may have been borrowed from World War II fighter
pilots, who spoke of a tendency to want to fly into targets during a strafing
run.  Strafing is the practice of attacking ground targets from low-flying
aircraft.  Target fixation may also refer to a phenomenon where a skydiver
may forget to pull the ripcord because he or she is so focused on the
landing area.

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Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted May 7, 2010