Medicine has advanced so much over the years, it’s hard to believe that some diseases still exist or don’t have a cure. Commonly known conditions such as cancer, stroke, and heart disease are scary enough, but there are plenty of other conditions that are potentially deadlier. From Black Death to Stone Man Syndrome, here are some lesser known medical killers, many of which have no cure.
- Commotio Cordis
Commotio Cordis refers to a severe cardiac arrhythmia, triggered by a blow to the chest directly over the heart. This can lead to sudden cardiac death. It occurs most often in organized sports, either in the form of a projectile (baseball, hockey), or in contact sports – for example, by taking a knee to the chest in football, getting punched in boxing, or getting kicked by a horse. Internationally, most cases occur in football. Commotio cordis accounts for around 20% of sudden deaths in US sports.
- Necrotizing Fasciitis
Commonly known as the flesh-eating disease, necrotizing fasciitisis is an infection that causes the death of soft-tissue in the body. This serious disease spreads through the body rapidly, therefore treatment is needed urgently but often the clinical signs and symptoms are nonspecific, such as fever, chills and pain. Even with treatment two in every five cases is fatal.
Amyloidsis is a rare disease caused by an abnormal build-up of a protein called amyloid. The build-up of this protein can make it difficult for organs and tissues to work. Without treatment the disease is fatal within five years, usually due to heart or renal failure. A common treatment is chemotherapy, but even that is not a cure because the amyloid deposits cannot be removed directly.
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rare and fatal disease that affects the brain and is usually characterized by rapidly progressive dementia. There is no cure for the disease. Treatment aims to make the affected person as comfortable as possible. Death occurs within a year for 80% of patients.
- Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressive
Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressive, or Stone Man Syndrome, is an extremely rare human genetic disease, affecting one in every 2 million people. It is a disorder in which muscle tissue and connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments are gradually replaced by bone, forming bone outside the skeleton that restricts movement. This incurable disease causes most people to become immobilized by the third decade of life die before age 40.
- African Trypanosomiasis
African Trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness, is an insect-borne parasitic disease transmitted to humans and animals by tsetse flies. The first case reports of the disease go back to the 14th century. Its impact in Africa has been enormous. Many areas were long rendered uninhabitable for people and livestock. During the early decades of the 20th century, millions may have died in Central Africa around Lake Victoria and in the Congo basin.
If caught early enough the disease can be cured. In the late stages of the disease, however, treatment is difficult and dangerous; all of the drugs used are toxic and have many side effects, some potentially lethal.
- Bubonic Plague
Few diseases have impacted human history and culture like the plague. It has been credited with the fall of great empires, inspired literature and art, and shaped the way we view disease. Plague persists today, although with few cases and infrequent outbreaks around the globe. The United States on average, only seven human cases are reported each year.
Bubonic plague, or Black Death, is the most common form of plague characterized by buboes (painful swollen lymph nodes that are tender to touch). If untreated, bacteria quickly invade the blood stream and without antibiotics death can occur in 2-6 days.
As worrying as some of these diseases are, the chances of you getting one are very unlikely. As medicine continues to progress and awareness grows, perhaps we will eventually see advances in treatment or eradication of these diseases.
Featured image credit: “exit signage” by perry c via Unsplash.