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There are a number of medical conditions that continue to surprise people and baffle even doctors and scientists. Most of these conditions are rare, although a few are quite familiar. The problem with these disorders is that they are bizarre, sometimes even funny, and they are not easily diagnosed because they are not commonly encountered in normal clinical practice. Nevertheless, it may be worthwhile to know some of these to help us understand how they occur and what doctors can do to treat them.
One not-so-funny disorder that affects some very young children is a rare form of epilepsy that manifests as laughing seizures. An affected child laughs uncontrollably, but the laughter is characterized as hollow and unpleasant. Along with this, other characteristics such as precocious (unusually early) puberty and growth or developmental delays may be observed. The affected child may also have other psychiatric problems, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorders, speech disorders, learning impairments, and mood disorders. The condition may also affect adults, but the manifestations are less severe.
The tumor is a small, noncancerous mass called hamartoma, which is found in a part of the brain called hypothalamus. Although laughing spells are the primary symptom, crying outbursts also occur.
Medical treatment is often not effective, but surgical removal of the tumor may have better outcomes.
Body Integrity Identity Disorder
A rare and bizarre disorder, this condition leads an otherwise completely sane person to have in intense desire to amputate a body part, even if to other people he looks completely normal. To the affected individual's perception, one of his limbs may look horrific or alien, and not belonging to his body, and the only way for him to survive is to remove the specific body part. Other affected persons feel the need to remove their spinal cord in order to become paralyzed. There is a highly secretive component to this disorder, and some people try to hide their condition by using a wheelchair while in public.
Doctors find that there is no psychiatric disorder, except that the unwanted limb or body part is “missing” in the person's body image map in his brain.
This can lead to self-mutilation, or a sympathetic surgeon agreeing to amputate a healthy limb. The result is a much happier patient who is able to carry on a normal life.
The cause is unknown and there is so far no medical treatment for the condition.
Congenital Insensitivity to Pain
Many people would probably be glad to have this condition, when one would not be able to perceive any pain. But this congenital disorder, which results from a specific genetic mutation, can be life-threatening, because one is unable to perceive the danger of trauma such as burns or fractures, that can be fatal, even if they do not feel it. Young children who are not aware of their condition often bite their tongues, burn their fingers or get eye injuries because they do not feel any pain, which would ordinarily make one protect themselves from trauma. Some affected individuals also do not possess a sense of smell. Although they can tell between hot and cold or sharp and dull, they do not perceive the pain that usually goes with these sensations.
Education is an important part of preventive treatment, both for the affected individual and for the people around them, especially their families, friends and school authorities.