It sometimes seems like scientists already know of every disease that can possibly plague humankind and every symptom these conditions can produce, from rare genetic conditions that only a few people in the world have to common diseases that most of us had at one point in time. And then, a new strange and completely bizarre case like these is recorded, urging medical researchers to completely rethink what they know of the human body and the way it functions. The year of 2019 was full of the strangest possible medical cases that scientists weren’t even sure could exist before they’ve encountered living people suffering from these 10 conditions.
1. A Glowing Iris
When a 44-year-old American man turned up at an eye clinic in an attempt to set up with a new doctor after a recent move, the ophthalmologist observed a strange and extremely rare symptom – the man’s eye seemed to emit a glow, with many subsequent people even pointing out that the man’s eye looks a lot like the ominous Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings.
Cultural references aside, though, the man faced a serious rare disorder that caused the eye pigment in his eye to flake off as a result of ocular pressure abnormalities and a clogged eye drainage. The rare disease is called pigment dispersion syndrome, and it’s very rare in adults past the age of 30. Long story short, a combination of laser therapy and eye pressure medication ultimately helped restore the eye pigment in the man’s eyes.
2. Blue Blood
In a “surprising” turn of events, it turned out that it isn’t aristocracy that causes blue blood, but a rare medical issue called methemoglobinemia, a blood condition when red blood cells cannot release all the oxygen to the cells. The excess oxygen turns the blood a dark blue color, and patients, like the 25-year-old woman from Rhode Island who was taken to the emergency room with complaints of shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, and a bluish skin hue.
Methemoglobinemia can be hereditary or a side effect of medication, and in this case, it was likely the numbing cream she applied liberally to treat a toothache that caused the condition. The condition was treated with methylene blue, a medication that can typically reverse the condition in a matter of hours.
3. Feather Duvet Lung
A 43-year-old Scottish man was suffering from a persistent lower respiratory infection for 3 months that didn’t respond to treatment. The man was experiencing difficulty breathing and fatigue, especially when he was at home. A specialized blood test revealed that the inflammation in his lungs was caused by irritation due to exposure to duck or chicken feathers, which made doctors realize that the man was suffering from a rare condition called feather duvet lung.
This condition occurs when a person develops an allergic reaction to bedding, which causes chronic inflammation. After switching to hypoallergenic bedding, the man experienced a rapid improvement in symptoms.
4. Drunk Without Alcohol
When a 46-year-old man claimed he didn’t drink any alcohol despite having extremely high alcohol levels after turning to the doctor with complaints about inexplicable brain fog and aggressiveness, the doctors didn’t believe him, as what he described looked just like an episode of drunkenness.
Eventually, it turned out that the man was right, and his symptoms were the result of an extremely rare condition called auto-brewery syndrome (ABS), which can occur when certain gut microorganisms transform carbohydrates from food into alcohol, essentially producing alcohol internally. In this man’s case, a specific kind of yeast in his gut was turning carbs into alcohol, and treatment of antibiotics killed the booze producing bugs, and over time, he could resume eating carb-rich foods without feeling drunk.
5. A Fire in the Chest
“Having a fire in the chest” is an expression we typically use metaphorically, but in the case of one patient undergoing open-heart surgery, doctors actually ended up having to put out a literal fire in his chest as a result of a rare complication.
The combination of supplementary oxygen and an electrocautery device used to prevent bleeding sparked a fire on the surgical gauze. Saltwater was promptly used to quickly extinguish the fire, and luckily, the patient wasn’t injured, but we can’t imagine the shock everyone in the operation room must have experienced upon witnessing the situation.