Blog » Strange Illnesses You May Not Have Heard Of

Strange Illnesses You May Not Have Heard Of

Strange Illnesses You May Not Have Heard Of

 

Many of us fear being diagnosed with common diseases such as cancer or diabetes, but for a small percentage of the population, visiting a doctor has yielded more terrifying results. 

 

More people than you might think, worldwide, suffer from strange and shocking illnesses, many of which you may never have heard of. In this article, you’ll learn more about these conditions, which continue to perplex the medical industry. You never know if you could contract such a disease, so it's best to have a Medical Aid policy in place to help pay for unexpected medical expenses. 

 

1. Elephantiasis

 

Elephantiasis

 

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

What is it?

 

Elephantiasis is a parasitic infection characterised by extreme swelling and puffiness in the limbs. This is due to a blockade in the lymphatic system (the network of organs, vessels and tissues that helps clear the body of toxins and waste) that causes fluid build-up in the affected areas. 

 

How do people get it?

 

People become infected when a mosquito bite transfers the filarial parasite into the human bloodstream. The parasite develops into an adult worm that lives in the lymphatic system.

 

Statistics

 

It affects more than 120 million people in 80 countries worldwide.

 

How do I know that I have elephantiasis?

 

The common symptoms of elephantiasis typically include painful swelling of the arms and legs, skin hardening, sores on the skin, and skin colour changes. All of these let the skin take an elephant-like appearance, hence the disease's name.

 

Is there any treatment available?

 

To eliminate the parasite and lessen the swelling, patients are given a single dose of two anti-parasitic drugs simultaneously.

 

Read about this case study of elephantiasis in South Africa.

 

2. Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome (VHL)

 

Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL)

 

What is it?

 

Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) is a genetic disorder that causes the abnormal growth of cysts and blood vessel tumours in the brain, spinal cord, eye, kidney and pancreas. The average life expectancy for patients with VHL disease used to be 50 years old, but current screening processes and treatment have vastly improved this prognosis.

 

How do people get it?

 

VHL is a genetic condition caused by a mutation. According to Laura van Niekerk from Health24, it’s not only inherited, but can also develop during pregnancy. Symptoms usually arise around the age of 23, but Laura says that there can be a lag between the appearance of symptoms and the time the disease is diagnosed.

 

Statistics

 

The VHL Alliance estimates that VHL affects one in every 36 000 people around the world.

 

How do I know that I have VHL?

 

VHL sometimes comes with no associated symptoms, and they can vary from person to person depending on the complications caused by the disease. Examples of symptoms can include high blood pressure, sweating, headaches, rapid or irregular heartbeats, feelings of anxiety, panic and fear, pale skin, dizziness or light-headedness when standing up.

 

Is there any treatment available?

 

VHL is treated in the same way cancer of the kidney is treated. However, surgery for tumours is considered earlier on than in normal cases of cancer.

 

If you suffer from this disease and are interested in learning more about it and gaining some support, join the VHL Facebook group.

 

3. Rheumatic Heart Disease

 

Rheumatic Heart Disease

 

What is it?

 

While rheumatic heart disease affects the heart, it’s actually caused by a bacterial throat infection called strep throat, according to The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa.  Untreated cases of strep throat can eventually lead to rheumatic fever. This, in turn, attacks the heart valves – the thin membranes attached to the heart wall – and causes long-term damage.

 

How do people get it?

 

Prevalent in impoverished and overcrowded communities, rheumatic heart disease often occurs due to the lack of availability of antibiotics and untreated strep throat infections.

 

Statistics

 

The disease causes more than 200 000 deaths per year, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-Central Asia. In South Africa, it’s found in poor communities with limited access to medical care and funding schemes, like Medical Aid.

 

How do I know that I have rheumatic heart disease?

 

Symptoms of strep throat include a severe and sudden sore throat without the typical cold or flu symptoms of sneezing or coughing. Once it has developed into rheumatic heart disease, symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling of joints and joint pain.

 

Is there any treatment available?

 

This disease is entirely preventable if the strep throat infection is treated with common antibiotics. Once contracted, rheumatic heart disease cannot be cured and often requires open-heart surgery for valve replacements.

 

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa has an extensive database of support groups nationwide, as well as resources to find out more about this disease.

 

4. Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS)

 

Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS)

 

What is it?

 

Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic, recurrent, weakening disease that results in painful and inflammatory cuts in the skin where apocrine glands (a type of sweat gland) are present. This includes areas of the skin such as the armpits, areola and nipples of the breast, ear canal, eyelids, nostril wings, perianal region, and some parts of the external genitalia.

 

How do people get it?

According to Dr Rakesh Newaj of the The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, HS occurs after puberty, and is more common in females than in males. A few studies suggest that obesity and smoking can increase the severity of the disease.

 

Statistics

 

It affects an estimated 1% of the population.

 

How do I know that I have HS?

 

HS lesions usually begin as tender lumps under the skin which either rupture spontaneously or form deep, painful abscesses (a collection of pus). Cuts caused by HS tend to heal with severe scars, causing disfiguration of the anatomy in the affected area.

 

Is there any treatment available?

 

There are two approaches to treating HS. On the medicinal side, this includes antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicine such as corticosteroids, while surgical treatment can include carbon dioxide laser, radiotherapy, and surgical drainage. In extreme cases, the affected apocrine glands can also be removed.

 

If you suffer from this disease, seek some support from the online HS community.

 

5. Cystic Fibrosis (CF)

 

Cystic Fibrosis (CF)

 

What is it?

 

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that causes the sweat glands, salivary glands, reproductive glands, pancreas glands, and glands of the digestive and respiratory systems to be overstimulated, which causes them to produce abnormally thick and sticky mucus that may obstruct airways and damage tissues.

 

How do people get it?

 

According to nutritional therapist Jeanne Van Zyl from the College of Natural Health, CF is caused by a mutation in the gene responsible for regulating the passage of salt in and out of the body’s exocrine glands.

 

Statistics

 

It affects an estimated 1% of the population.

 

How do I know that I have HS?

 

CF symptoms begin early in life and can include coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and recurrent lung infections. A thick discharge from the pancreatic gland may obstruct the secretion of enzymes that are needed to digest food. Besides digestive problems, this can also result in excessive sweating, dehydration, chronic diarrhoea, and an excessive appetite when there’s poor growth or low weight.

 

Is there any treatment available?

 

While CF cannot be cured, the symptoms can be managed to support overall health with conventional medicine and the right nutrition. Treatment includes antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and devices to remove mucus. Lung-replacement surgery is often performed if lung conditions worsen, or if lung tissue is damaged excessively.

 

Read about the personal stories of cystic fibrosis patients in South Africa.

 

Conclusion

 

While most of us suffer from the common cold or a bout of flu every now and again, every so often the unlucky few suffer from something far more rare and dangerous. Whether or not you’re suffering from one of these conditions, it’s always a good idea to keep your health and wellbeing in mind. To make sure you’re financially prepared for any health issues, we recommend you consider comparing Medical Aid quotes today.

 

Sources

http://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/elephantiasis/

 

DISCLAIMER

The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice.  Please consult a medical practitioner for any concerns regarding your personal health. 


Compare car insurance with Hippo.co.za

Compare trusted brands side by side. Compare insurance and other popular products

  • 1Life Insurance
  • Jenus Health
  • Ctrack Vehicle Tracking
  • Travelstart
  • Turnberry Medical Gap
  • Total Risk Administrators
  • Union Life
  • dail-direct insurance
  • Regent Insurance
  • Virseker Versekering
  • Clientele Life
  • Stratum Benefits
  • Hollard Pet Insurance
  • Beame Vehicle Tracking
  • Prosper Insurance
  • Bitco
  • rentalcars.com
  • Topmed Medical Aid
  • Alexander Forbes
  • Bayport Financial Services
  • Dignity Burial Assist
  • MobiLife
  • Carfin
  • Fedhealth Medical Aid
  • Instant life
  • Auto & General Insurance
  • HotelsCombined Accomodation
  • Legal Wise
  • Matrix Vehicle Tracking
  • Bonitas Medical Scheme
  • dotsure.co.za
  • Discovery Health Medical Aid
  • Chubb Travel Insurance
  • Spectramed Medical Aid
  • Standard Bank Insurance
  • GetBucks Loans
  • Resolution Health
  • Medihelp Medical Aid
  • Izwe Loans
  • Onepet Pet Insurance
  • KGA Funeral Cover
  • Budget Insurance
  • Kudough Credit Reports
  • Netstar
  • Keyhealth Medical Aid Scheme
  • Travelsafe Insurance
  • Asterio Medical & Funeral Insurance
  • Different Life
  • Ibuyeco Insurance
  • Oakhurst Life
  • Profmed Medical Scheme
  • Unity Insurance
  • Momentum Health
  • 1st For Women Insurance
  • Bestmed Medical Aid
  • Tracker
  • Zest Life