20 Weird Health Conditions Science Can’t Explain

6 minute read

By Jordana Weiss

The mind and the body work in strange ways, and although researchers are making breakthroughs every day, there are still some conditions that remain mysteries of modern medicine. Start a search to learn more about these mysterious conditions.

The last thing you want when you go to the doctor’s office is for your physician to say they don’t know what’s wrong. Unfortunately, this happens more than we like to admit. Check out a few in the list below.

1. Dancing Mania

This phenomenon occurred infrequently in Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries. Basically, what would happen is that groups of people would spontaneously assemble and begin frantically dancing until they either collapsed, or the collective mood passed.

Researchers speculate that the cause could have been as innocuous as an unspoken way of working through panic and stress or as complicated as a mass psychogenic illness.

2. Exploding Head Syndrome

Fortunately, this one sounds worse than it actually is. What happens is patients who suffer from exploding head syndrome will hear loud noises or feel the sensations of an explosion right when they fall asleep or wake up. However, the noises and sensations that they perceive aren’t actually happening.

3. Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Syndrome

This condition probably takes the cake for the syndrome with the strangest name of all time. Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Syndrome refers to a disorder wherein a person has a dangerously exaggerated startle reflex.

If a person with this disorder is startled, they will react with either large movements, screaming, or flailing. It can even force a person to execute a command without thinking if it is given suddenly.

4. Water Allergy

Can you imagine being allergic to one of the most common substances on Earth? People who suffer from water allergy (aquagenic urticaria) break out into red, itchy hives if their skin is exposed to any water. That includes sweat! The condition is so rare that there have been less than 100 cases of water allergy reported in history.

5. Brainerd Diarrhea

Brainerd Diarrhea (named after the town where it first occurred in 1983) is a syndrome where the sufferer will suddenly experience 10-20 episodes of watery diarrhea per day.

No one is sure yet what causes it, although scientists are currently speculating that it’s caused by an unknown chemical toxin. Luckily, the syndrome isn’t fatal — only extremely inconvenient.

6. Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity

People who claim to suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity report all kinds of negative symptoms that they attribute to electromagnetic fields. Many people cite wi-fi networks as a cause of their perceived illness.

In order to treat this condition, doctors often seek to determine if there is any other mental illness driving this paranoid delusion. There is no actual scientific evidence to link any reported symptoms to electromagnetic exposure.

7. Stiff Person Syndrome

This syndrome causes sufferers to experience a sudden stiffening of muscles, which leaves them unable to walk, or perform other normal, everyday tasks. The muscle stiffening is often triggered by touch or noise.

Although doctors aren’t sure what causes it, they currently posit that it’s a type of autoimmune disease. If left untreated, it can complicate the respiratory system and cause the patient to have trouble breathing.

8. Marburg Virus

This rare virus starts with a headache and general feeling of malaise, but eventually causes massive internal hemorrhaging that is fatal anywhere between 25-80% of the time.

The virus — named after the city of Marburg, Germany, where it was first discovered — is thought to be contracted from infected animal tissue, but can be passed between humans via blood and bodily fluid.

9. Nodding Disease

This disease started affecting children in the Sudan in the 1960s. Luckily, the disease is confined to a very small area including the Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Nodding disease is characterized by the child suddenly beginning to nod the head back and forth, which usually leads to a seizure. Many children die from this illness within three years of their first seizure.

10. SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the stuff of every parent’s nightmares. SIDS refers to the sudden death of an infant in sleep for completely unexplained reasons.

Even autopsies don’t shed any light on why the baby passed away. Doctors now insist that babies sleep on their backs as a way of avoiding SIDS, but they truly have no idea of what causes it.

11. Vampire Disease

This seems like a joke, but it’s actually for real. People suffering from vampire disease (also known as Hereditary Coproporphyria) find that their skin is sensitive to sunlight, and breaks and forms lesions after exposure.

Many different medicines can also trigger attacks. The condition is hereditary and extremely rare. Doctors test for this disease by leaving a patient’s urine in the sun for three days — a positive diagnosis turns the urine purple.

12. Lujo Virus

This virus is so rare that only five cases have ever been reported — and four of them were almost immediately fatal. Symptoms of Lujo virus include swelling of the neck and face, diarrhea, rash, and low platelet counts.

The name Lujo is taken from the two cities where the virus was found, Lusaka, and Johannesburg. The virus is easily transferred between humans via bodily fluids.

13. Acute flaccid myelitis

This disease is characterized by a sudden weakening of the arms and legs, which can lead to a loss of muscle tone, weakness, and loss of reflexes. Often, patients will require a ventilator to assist their breathing if the muscles in their lungs become too weak to function. It is thought that acute flaccid myelitis is caused by viruses, including the West Nile Virus.

14. Peruvian Meteorite Illness

In 2007, a meteorite struck near the city of Carancas, Peru. The impact caused a massive crater to form, which eventually filled up with boiling water and gas. Many villagers who approached the crater fell ill from extreme nausea.

At the time was thought to be caused by some unknown compound in the meteorite. Now, it’s believed that the villagers fell ill from arsenic poisoning after trace amounts were found in the local water supply.

15. Kuru Disease

This neurodegenerative disorder was discovered among the isolated Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea. The disease causes sufferers to shake and lose motor control, which eventually leads to a fatal inability to swallow, complete unresponsiveness, and ulcerated wounds.

The disease is transmitted through ritual cannibalism, which the Fore people practiced funerary cannibalism throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

16. Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

This unexplained disease causes prolonged attacks of vomiting in sufferers. Patients report vomiting frequently (as often as every few minutes) for a period of days. Because of the incessant vomiting, patients become listless, weak, and can dehydrate rapidly.

17. Morgellon’s Disease

Morgellon’s disease is characterized by itchy sores that appear on the skin, and often make the patient feel as if their skin is crawling. The strangest thing about Morgellon’s disease are the tiny filaments that seem to erupt from the sores. It can also cause patients to be extremely fatigued.

18. Gulf War Syndrome

Many people who fought in the Gulf War came home suffering from an identical mix of random symptoms, including headaches, joint pain, memory problems, and respiratory disorders to name just a few. Doctors still aren’t sure if this is a problem caused by the patients’ collective experience in the Gulf War or just a coincidence.

19. Twentieth Century Disease

Also known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, the colloquial name “Twentieth Century Disease” reflects the fact that in our world today, there are so many synthetic chemical compounds present in our everyday life that it’s almost impossible to rule out allergies to any individual one.

People often report sensitivities to artificial and synthetic products like perfume, fabric, and pesticides. Often, it can cause vague but persistent symptoms which include nausea, dizziness, and joint pain.

20. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

This rare and fatal disease is a form of mad cow disease that causes the brain tissue in humans to degrade to the point that it resembles a sponge. This degeneration is caused by an infectious agent called a prion, which causes the brain matter to alter its structure until it completely collapses.

The first symptom is rapid-onset dementia, which leads to physical problems and eventual death generally anywhere between mere weeks and two years.

Jordana Weiss