From a very early age, we learn that optimism is the key to happiness. Unfortunately, when people catch a disease, especially an incurable one, they tend to lose their optimism and fall into depression, and this only aggravates their condition. Even though this attitude is perfectly explainable, as being ill is the essence of human suffering, one should remember that there is no bad without good.
To prove this point, here is a list of 10 diseases with surprising benefits for those who suffer from it.
10. Myostatin – Related Muscle Hypertrophy
Benefit: Makes you muscular
This is a very rare condition, which is known to increase the skeletal muscle size in humans and animals while reducing the body fat, without any medical complications (every athlete`s dream).
People suffering from this condition lack the Myostatin hormone – the negative regulator of muscle growth in a normal person. Therefore, their muscle development starts while they are still in their mother’s womb and continues after birth, reaching astonishing levels at a very early age.
A treatment for this condition has not yet been revealed, and scientists are not very keen to find one as no “sufferer” has ever complained.
9. Persistent Sexual Arousal Disorder
Benefit: Gives you spontaneous orgasms
Persistent Sexual Arousal Disorder, or Restless Genital Syndrome, is a condition that causes uncontrollable genital arousal in women.
As the description goes, people suffering from this ailment are unable to control their sexual organs’ activity, the arousal not being linked to any sexual desire. The arousal does not always end with an orgasm, although it’s sometimes accompanied by waves of such physical responses.
The condition has been the subject of an UK documentary, 100 Orgasms A Day, that presents the life of several women with PSAD. Rachel, one of these women, says that sometimes the orgasms come every thirty seconds for periods as long as eight hours.
Although this is a very serious condition that can bring people on the brink of anxiety, as they become unable to comply to their daily routine due to the distraction caused by the spontaneous arousal episodes, it’s undeniable that the PSAD’s exhilarating effect on the human body classify this disease as highly preferable to others.
Benefit: Gets you high
One of the oldest STDs, syphilis is undoubtedly one of the most horrible ailments out there. The excruciating pain caused by non–healing skin ulcers, so deep that they may reveal the bone, combined with such complications as liver failure and nervous system breakdown, describe a tableau of suffering and despair.
However, as unlikely as it may sound, syphilis can bring some comforting symptoms to the sufferer in its very last stage, the Neurosyphilis, when it finally gets to the brain. Before reaching its fatal destination, the Neurosyphilis triggers physical reactions very similar to those triggered by drug consumption, such as euphoria, extreme excitement, loads of creative energy, and a great sense of relaxation. In fact, the case of a 90-year-old woman suffering from this condition is described in the medical books. She was so excited about the way she felt that she refused treatment.
While, as we mentioned in the opening paragraph, Syphilis is far from a condition one might wish for, in its final stage it might be capable of delivering some closure to the sufferers.
7. Parasite Infection
Benefit: Makes you healthier
Well, of course not all parasites are beneficial, and we most definitely should not run out and trample in the dirt in order to get infected. Nevertheless, a decent exposure to some parasites will make us healthier.
And the explanation is simple: our immune system has two lines of defense against diseases. The first one, called Th1 lymphocytes, is in charge with attacking infected body cells by deploying specialized white blood cells (think of it as the Navy SEALs of teeny microbes). The other line of defense, called Th2 lymphocytes, attacks the disease earlier, by trying to stop the microbes even before entering our body.
Now, if we do not enter in contact with parasites, by living in a germ-free environment, our Th2 will do all the work, not allowing our Th1 to ever exercise its “fighting skills.” In the long run, our Th1 will become lazy and unable to fight even the weakest microbe. Thus, we will be prone to get sick as soon as we leave our germ-free environment.
We must conclude that, even though rolling naked in the mud is definitely not the way to go, a bit of exposure to the natural environment may not be such a bad idea after all.
6. Polycythemia Vera
Benefit: Increases your stamina
Polycythemia vera is a condition that causes our body to produce more red blood cells than normal, due to a mutation in a bone marrow cell. This causes the blood to become thicker and, as a result, the sufferer becomes prone to a large number of possible medical complications, like heart attacks and strokes.
However, given the fact that red cells play a key role in increasing stamina, by being responsible for transporting oxygen to the muscles, it’s only obvious that having a lot of them, thanks to Polycythemia vera, would be a great asset to anyone looking to finish a marathon.
Of course, like any other disease, Polycythemia vera is not a desirable condition but, in some circumstances, it might help the sufferer to compete shoulder-to-shoulder with world-class athletes, with no previous training.
5. Huntington’s Disease
Benefit: Protects you from cancer
Huntington’s Disease is an incurable genetic condition, that causes the degeneration of nerve cells in certain parts of the brain. This leading to shattering complications, like significant declines in cognitive functions and psychiatric abnormalities.
However, following a recent Swedish medical study carried on 1510 patients for a period of over 39 years, the scientist concluded that patients suffering from Huntington’s Disease are far less prone to develop cancer than healthy people.
Unfortunately, the condition is known to lead to suicide in some cases, and patients diagnosed with it are likely to die within 15 to 20 years. But, despite all these awful expectations, the fact remains that Huntington’s Disease seems to offer protection against the most terrifying and ruthless ailment of recent history: cancer.
4. Sickle Cell Disease
Benefit: Protects you from Malaria
Sickle Cell Disease represents, in fact, a group of genetic illnesses affecting the hemoglobin (the molecule in charge of transporting oxygen through the body) by decreasing the number of red blood cells in the body. Therefore, sickle-cell is the exact opposite of Polycythemia vera.
A recent study, led by biologist Marek Cyrklaff at the Heidelberg University in Germany, unveiled that mutated hemoglobin molecules affected by sickle-cell defend the sufferer from the malaria parasite, which is responsible for 1 to 2 millions deaths every year.
The malaria parasite acts a lot like sickle-cell, by modifying the shape of the red blood cells. The researchers have observed that malaria is unable to affect the cells that have already been affected by sickle-cell, thus the sufferers have developed a sort of immunity to malaria.
Considering that sickle-cell is much less dangerous than malaria, a condition able to kill the sufferer in a matter of weeks, its benefits are only obvious, especially for those living in malaria-affected areas.
3. Urbach – Wiethe Disease
Benefit: Makes you fearless
This very rare, incurable, non-life-threatening, congenital disease, that causes the thickening of the skin and brain tissue, was first reported in 1929 by Dr. Erich Urbach and Dr. Camillo Wiethe.
While the patients whose skin has been thickened by the condition have such reactions as dry or wrinkly skin, those with damage to the brain, and especially to the amygdala, turn into full-blown Terminators.
A study carried on a woman suffering from Urbach–Wiethe Disease with a damaged amygdala, revealed that she became utterly fearless. She is known to have undertaken such actions as picking up a huge snake with her bare hands, or confronting an assailant while being threatened at gun point. The researchers stated that “what stands out most is that, in many of these situations, her life was in danger, yet her behavior lacked any sense of desperation or urgency.”
While this remains a very serious condition, as fear has its own purpose, being developed as a defense mechanism and all, we must admit that a sufferer could well have a great career in MMA, the Army, the Justice League, or most any other childhood dream job out there.
2. Savant Syndrome
Benefit: Makes you a genius
This rare condition “affects” people who are already suffering from severe mental disabilities. The Savant Syndrome basically develops the mental capacity of the sufferer at an astonishing level, but in an unconventional way.
A real explanation for the occurrence of the Savant Syndrome has not yet been discovered by scientists, but it is believed that one side of the brain gets shattered by the condition, while the other side overdevelops to compensate the loss.
One famous case of a patient suffering from the syndrome is that of Thomas Fuller, an African–American slave nicknamed “The Virginia Calculator” who possessed extraordinary calculation abilities. He is known to have been unable to understand anything theoretical or practical. However, when asked how many seconds a 70 years, 17 days, and 12 hours old person had lived, he immediately gave the correct answer (2,210,500,800, in case you hadn’t figured it out already.)
The Savant Syndrome is a perfect example of why we must never call someone “stupid,” as the brain has unsuspected ways of developing, and stupidity is a very subjective and shallow way of human (or animal) classification.
Benefit: Makes you remember everything
Hyperthymesia is an extremely rare neuropsychological disorder that confers the sufferer an extraordinary memory capacity. The explanation is given by the fact that the condition affects two areas of the brain controlling the memory capacity and formation: the Caudate Nucleus and the Temporal Lobe.
The Caudate Nucleus has the role of storing memories we don’t even think about. Like riding a bike, we get better and better through practice, but we never directly memorize our body’s position or what exactly makes us better. Meanwhile, the Temporal Lobe is responsible for storing dates, facts, or events that we choose to remember.
The Hyperthymesia is, without a doubt, a burden to the sufferer, who lacks the choice of what to remember and what not, being forced to live a life followed not only by nice memories, but by all of them. Very often, people suffering from this condition are unable to live in the present, being haunted by their memories.
However, the good side of the disease is obvious. Let’s just say that Alex Trebek should think twice before letting a hyperthymesia patient on Jeopardy. Unless he feels like bankrupting the show within a week.