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10 Dreadful Symptoms Of Deadly Diseases

by Dr. Keith Andrew Chan
fact checked by Jamie Frater

The human body is truly marvelous. It can cope with ridiculous demands, heal itself, feed itself, and most importantly, protect itself from harm. However, our understanding of the true mysteries of human anatomy and how the body works is far from perfect. Many times, we’ve been confronted with new diseases that we simply didn’t even know existed. Some of these ailments may have been the basis of folklore and cultural beliefs. Others are, well, just plain weird for those not initiated in the ways of medicine. Here are 10 truly weird symptoms that may signal an underlying deadly disease.

10 Forgetting To Breathe

Yes, you read that right. People sometimes forget to breathe. When pressure begins to build on the brain for whatever reason—be it due to a large bloody stroke, an expanding tumor, or the accumulation of water within the brain matter (hydrocephalus)—the brain is eventually pressed against the skull. This often affects the breathing centers, located in the brain stem.

So yes, the age-old (and morbid) joke of someone forgetting to breathe actually comes true. It’s far from being a laughing matter in real life, however, as it often signifies a buildup of intracranial pressure that may eventually end in death.

9 ‘Dancing’

50 hemiballismus

You know that feeling when you can’t sit still and the beat of the music just takes over your body? We’re not talking about that. In the medical field, music and dance inclinations aside, there exist several severely degenerative diseases that result in the patient having uncontrolled, jerky movements, otherwise noted by nonmedical individuals as a form of dancing.

Such movement are referred to as hemiballismus and result from certain portions of the brain losing their inhibitory control of movement. Though quite interesting at first glance, the symptom is quite debilitating and oftentimes requires an intensive amount of medications to keep the patient from moving or exhibiting jerking movements.

8 Hypersexuality

It’s joked that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but it turns out that the human sex drive is written into deeper parts of the human brain. Hypersexuality and inappropriate sexual behavior (as well as desires to put things in one’s mouth and the loss of normal fear responses) are all part of a group of symptoms that describe Kluver-Bucy syndrome, a rare disease often seen in people who have sustained large amounts of damage to the portions of their brain responsible for keeping these emotions in check.

Unfortunately, no amount of psychotherapy or medication can truly correct this disease. Often, patients are left highly highly irritable and, well, aroused by pretty much anyone . . . and anything.

7 Complete Paralysis While Completely Awake

The thought of being completely paralyzed while totally aware is often the stuff of nightmares and cheesy indie movie plotlines. But however strange and horrifying as it may be, this can sometimes become a frightening reality for some patients, an affliction known as locked-in syndrome (LIS). Many patients who’ve sustained massive (just short of fatal) brain damage go into a state where they’re unable to move, communicate, or feel—but are often conscious and aware of all that is happening around them.

Chances of recovery are often slim, with most patients remaining in this state until they die. Several famous cases of LIS include Stephen Hawking, who is afflicted with ALS, Rom Houben, a highly publicized car crash survivor who was trapped in the state for over 23 years, and Jean Dominique Bauby, a French Philanthropist who later founded an organization dedicated to helping those with LIS.

6 Testicles Larger Than Your Body


Imagine having large testicles. Now imagine that they’re larger than your torso. Now imagine being unable to move due to the sheer bulk and size of your enlarged testicles. Such a condition called elephantiasis, which can also refer to enlargement of the feet or legs in addition to the genitals.

It’s usually the result of parasitic infection, particularly by filarial worms, which are small roundworms often found in the soil in African countries. These worms burrow into people’s legs and block off the conduits draining them, thus leading to an accumulation of water under the skin . . . including the scrotum.

Other times, testicular swelling may be due to other conditions that may cause pooling of fluid near the testicles, a symptom otherwise known as hydrocoele (or hematocoele if that fluid is blood). Thankfully, most of the time, this condition is highly curable when caught early. So yes, it would be advisable to check yourselves, gentlemen—every single chance you get.

5 ‘Burning Up’

Have you ever been so mad that you felt like you could erupt into a fiery inferno of hatred and spite? Medically speaking, the closest you can possibly get is malignant hyperthermia. This is a rare condition that occurs after undergoing surgery, specifically after undergoing general anesthesia. Body temperatures can get close to 41 degrees Celsius (105 °F), causing tremendous damage to tissues not used to such an elevated ambient temperature.

Malignant hyperthermia is often caused by an inherited defect in an individual’s normal temperature response. Unfortunately, most people who suffer from this are often unaware that they have the mutation until they’re sent to intensive care after surgery, thus giving a new meaning to being “hot” in bed.

4 Being Hurt By Sunlight


Photo credit: Chern

No, we’re not talking about Twilight or Edward Cullen. Instead, we’re looking at the medical condition that spurred the whole legend of vampires and associated ways to dispose of them, namely light and garlic. This condition is called porphyria, a general term used to describe the buildup of porphyrins in the body due to an inability to produce heme from the porphyrins. Some types are more severe than others.

So how exactly do people with porphyria behave? First, they are deathly afraid of light, since light triggers a reaction in their skin that causes severe pain. Secondly, they exhibit a ghostly pale complexion, mostly due to their aversion to sunlight. They’re also afraid of garlic because the odor aggravates most of their symptoms. On top of this, their urine takes on a purplish hue, almost as if it was blood. Does that all sound familiar? Thankfully, porphyria is exceptionally rare these days. Those afflicted with it are often confined to the pages of adolescent female fantasy literature.

3 Fear Of Water

We’ve all seen cats and dogs exhibit aversions to water. But can it ever happen to humans? Apart from fear of drowning (or the neglect of personal hygiene), the fear of water, specifically of swallowing, has often been seen in cases of rabies.

Sufferers don’t truly fear water. The rabies virus triggers a severe muscle spasm around the throat. Those who’ve succumbed to the encephalitic stage of rabies display a severe aversion to and difficulty with swallowing, making it appear as though they have a fear of water. Rabies is highly fatal disease if untreated, so if you’ve sustained a bite from a suspected rabid animal, go to your local hospital immediately.

2 Completely Ignoring A Body Part

People can be forgetful; they forget their car keys, their wives, and their kids. But what happens when you feel that a certain body part, or an entire side of your body, doesn’t exist? Don’t say it can’t happen. People who’ve suffered strokes and were lucky enough to survive often display this symptom.

For some, it’s as minor as not utilizing the affected body part in reflex movements. In more extreme cases, it actually leads to all-out denial that a left or right side even exists. Studies have shown that the condition goes beyond the affected body part simply being weak but rather is rooted in a portion of the brain going haywire.

1 Self-Mutilation

A lot of times, we take the act of self-harm to be a symptom with psychological roots. The individual may be troubled or is coping with numerous problems. However, individuals may go as far as to mutilate their own lips, tongue, and fingers when afflicted with Lesch-Nyhan syndrome (LNS).

LNS is a genetic disorder that involves problems with the body’s ability to recycle uric acid, a byproduct of normal cell recycling. The uric acid pools in undesirable areas of the body, such as the brain. This then causes many of the seemingly psychological symptoms that we see—the most obvious of which is gross mutilation of the body.

Dr. Keith Andrew Chan is an internist, video game enthusiast, and writer of many, many weird things. He is often spotted at coffee houses, leeching off their free wifi, and spending time running away from wild bears and sea critters. He writes for and has appeared in several national health publications.

fact checked by Jamie Frater