healthHealth and Medicine

These Are Some Of The Strangest Medical Cases Of All Time


Doctors see a lot of things that most of us wouldn't want to. hxdbzxy/Shutterstock

The human body is incredible. But it is also pretty damn weird, and the more we look, the stranger it becomes.

No one is more aware of the weirdness of the walking bags of bacteria we call humans than doctors, who usually have to deal day in day out with fairly standard conditions. Every now and then, though, a patient will baffle even them.


Here we have rounded up a handful of some of the strangest medical cases we could find.


Hairy Eyeball

The tumors can contain a wide variety of tissues, including hairs. Fard et al. 2013

Tumors have been known to grow hair (and even teeth) before. But this young man had what was thought to be a benign tumor on his eyeball, until it started growing in size and sprouting several thick black hairs.


Known as limbal dermoids, the tumors are thought to contain tissue that is normally found in other parts of the body. This can range widely, from simple connective tissue and fat to more complex structures such as sweat glands, bone, and even brain tissue. The guy in this case had had the tumor on his eyeball since birth, during which time it had not bothered him.

Usually, the tumors in these cases don’t affect vision, as they are not covering the center of the cornea. But after his began to grow, the man in this case decided to get it removed as it began to cause discomfort and loss of vision.

Tattoo Erection

The doctors don't recommend getting tattooed on your penis. POPKOV ALEKSANDR/Shutterstock

Priapism, in which the penis becomes erect due to reasons other than sexual stimulation, is not unusual. What is unusual, however, is for priapism to be caused by a penile tattoo.


That is exactly what happened to a poor Iranian gentleman who decided – for better or for worse – to get the Persian phrase for “good luck with your journeys” and the letter “M” (the first letter of his girlfriend’s name) permanently inked on his wang. For eight days he experienced pain in his penis as he suffered a deep tissue bleed, before developing a permanent semi-erection.

After three months, he decided that he should probably see a doctor, who, after running a host of tests to check he didn’t have any infections, concluded that it was probably because the tattoo needle went too deep. They tried draining the excess blood to no avail, and rather than undergoing further surgery, the man decided to leave things as they were as it was no longer painful, and he could still get a full erection. As you were.

Leaking Brain Fluid

Pilates can be more dangerous than you'd think. ZephyrMedia/Shutterstock

After attending a pilates class, a 42-year-old British woman went to the doctors reporting that she kept having persistent headaches. It turns out that the exercise class had ruptured the outer covering of her brain or spinal cord – the exact location was never identified – causing her brain fluid to leak out.


During the class, she felt a "pop" at the back of her neck, and then started to develop headaches that only went away when she lay down. After visiting the doctors, the woman was diagnosed with a neck muscle injury, only for the headaches to gradually get worse. Eventually, after weeks of checks, an MRI finally showed pools of blood outside of the brain, and pockets of spinal fluid outside of the spine.

After two weeks of bed rest and pain relief, it seems that the women got back to normal, although no doubt took extra care when doing anything that might raise the pressure in her neck muscles. 


The smell can seriously affect people's lives. Ezume Images/Shutterstock

People who have a mutation in the FMO3 gene end up with a really rare metabolic disorder that results in these unlucky people producing a horribly pungent body odor that has been likened to rotting eggs, rotting fish, garbage, and pee. Charming.


It results from the body’s inability to produce an enzyme that breaks down trimethylamine, which is produced when the bacteria in your gut breaks down proteins found in eggs, liver, legumes, and some fish, among other foods. Usually, the FMO3 enzyme breaks the foul-smelling trimethylamine down into odorless compounds, but when FMO3 is mutated the stinky molecule builds up in the body and is released through sweat, urine, and the breath.

Understandably, those suffering from the autosomal recessive condition often struggle. The intensity of the odor can vary over time, meaning that people can find it difficult to manage careers, relationships, and social lives.

Corkscrew Esophagus

The esophagus can sometimes form a perfect corkscrew. Cammarota et al. 2005

When an old man experienced frequent vomiting and felt painful spasms in his chest whenever he swallowed, I’m not sure he expected his esophagus to look not unlike a playground slide when given an endoscopy. It turned out that the patient's esophagus formed a perfect helix every time he swallowed.


The condition is to do with the muscles that surround the esophagus and contract, helping to push the food you’ve just chowed down on into your stomach. In a normal person, these muscles contract in sequence from top to bottom, helping the food go the right way. For those who have this condition, however, the muscles all contract at the same time, distorting the esophagus into a spiral shape.

While we know what causes the condition, unfortunately for those suffering from it, there isn’t much that can be done. Botox has been tried in some cases, but this typically only lasts between six and 12 months, while some drugs that act to modulate the muscle contractions have also been met with limited success.

Man With No Brain

Normally there would be brain in that hole. Feuillet et al./The Lancet

You’d be forgiven for thinking that you need most of your brain. Well, the bizarre case of a 44-year-old French man who had seemingly gone most of his life with only 10 percent of his brain intact says otherwise.


Doctors only realized something was up when he reported feeling a wild weakness in his left leg. One thing led to another, and he ended up going for a brain scan, which revealed that most of his skull was filled with fluid. It is estimated that an astonishing 90 percent of his brain is damaged after being slowly destroyed over a period of three decades, leaving just a thin layer around the outside.

The build-up of fluid in the brain is technically known as hydrocephalus, though most cases are nowhere near as extreme as this one. What is possibly even more amazing is that the patient was not mentally disabled, making doctors question what it really takes to survive and be conscious.


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