10 Baffling Medical Conditions

Despite Researchers' Efforts, These Conditions Remain Clouded in Mystery

Persistent sexual arousal syndrome. An allergy to cold temperatures. Music-induced seizures.

They are conditions that you may be hard-pressed to find in the medical literature. Bring them up in front of a physician, and in some cases you may get little more than a blank stare.

But they exist. And while such rare conditions are cocktail-party fodder for some, they can be a source of difficulty and shame for those who experience them firsthand.

The following pages feature some of the more unusual medical conditions that have received recent media attention.

When You Can't Open Your Eyes for Three Days

Natalie Adler, 21, of Caulfield South, Melbourne, Australia, says she can sense the onset of her unusual condition -- and when she should start preparing for three days of darkness.

"The night before it sets in, my eyes get quite heavy and that is how I know it is coming," Adler told ABCNews.com.

Invariably, the next morning Adler finds herself unable to open her tightly shut eyes. The bouts generally last for about three days, after which she can open her eyes and once again see normally.

Adler said she has suffered from the condition for the last four years. Doctors, both in Australia and the United States, are baffled as to the exact cause -- or indeed, whether her condition is physical or psychological.

"We're not really sure of the diagnosis," said Catherine Mancuso, an orthoptist who coordinated Adler's treatment plans at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

"There's nothing that would cause symptoms of a woman to close her eyes for three days, and open her eyes for three days," said Dr. Dean Cestari, a neuro-ophthalmologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston.

Cestari believes that at least part of Adler's condition may be attributed to a psychological condition that has manifested itself in a physical way.

"It can be hard, because sometimes these patients come in with real experiences. They aren't making this up," said Cestari. "But the mind converted a conflict into a physical manifestation."

For now, Adler receives Botox treatments to the muscles surrounding her eyes. The injections often help her to keep her eyes open, but she said that the effectiveness of the treatments is starting to wane.

Now she is holding out hope for a more permanent solution, as well as a way to continue her day-to-day life despite the condition.

"In the beginning, I tried to ignore it but have now learnt to live with it," she said.

Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome

For those who have never experienced persistent sexual arousal syndrome, or PSAS, its symptoms may seem more like a godsend or a dirty joke than a debilitating condition.

However, for the women who experience PSAS -- which causes them to live perpetually at the brink of orgasm -- the condition is a nightmarish curse. And up until 2001, it was a curse that didn't even have a name.

"I thought I was alone in this," Heather Dearmon, a 34-year-old South Carolina woman who experiences PSAS, told ABC News' "Primetime." "And this is after seeing every kind of doctor imaginable -- gynecologist, psychologist, psychiatrist — you know, everything. And none had ever heard of anything."

Relief from the condition is often as elusive as sympathy. The sensations, which are not brought about by fantasies or other sexual thoughts, are often only partially relieved through orgasm. For some women, even sex does not help quell their arousal, and on occasion can even make the sensations worse.

Dr. Irwin Goldstein, a professor of surgery at U.C. San Diego and the head of the Sexual Health Program at Alvarado Hospital, studies the condition. And he says understanding of the condition is spare, even within the medical community.

"Every lecture I give on this, there's always smirks in the audience: 'oh I wish my wife was like this.' These are professional physicians," Goldstein said. "And I said, 'no, no, you're, you don't really want this. You do not want your wife to have this, please.'"

Indeed, the mortifying nature of PSAS leads Goldstein to believe that perhaps thousands of women suffer from the condition without seeking a doctor's help.

"To me this is a sickness," Dearmon said. "This is not, it's not something we've chosen. ... I would rather never have another orgasm in my life for the rest of my life than to have this problem."

The Man Who Never Gets Cold

Wim Hof, 49, of the Netherlands, possesses such a strong resistance to cold that scientists remain baffled as to how he endures many of the tests to which he exposes his body.

The Guinness world record holder has immersed himself, nearly naked, in ice for one hour and 12 minutes.

In January 1999 he traveled 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle to run a half marathon in his bare feet. Three years later, dressed only in a swimsuit, he dived under the ice at the North Pole and earned a Guinness world record for the longest amount of time swimming under the ice: 80 meters, almost twice the length of an Olympic-size pool.

Hof earned more recent renown for scaling Mount Everest in his shorts.

Hof told ABC News' "20/20" that his ability to withstand cold temperatures was something he discovered more than two decades ago.

"I had a stroll like this in the park with somebody, and I saw the ice and I thought, 'what would happen if I go in there?' I was really attracted to it. I went in, got rid of my clothes. Thirty seconds I was in," Hof said. "Tremendous good feeling when I came out, and since then, I repeated it every day."

Dr. Ken Kamler, author of "Surviving the Extremes," has treated dozens of people who tried to climb Mount Everest, and instead nearly died from the frigid temperatures. When he heard that Hof had ascended the mountain wearing shorts, he became intrigued and began to study the Dutchman. He believes that Hof's ability lies in the wiring of his brain.

"It's very easy to speculate that the same mind control that you use to control your heart when you're scared also can be called upon to control the other organs in the body. And maybe that's how Wim Hof does this," said Kamler. "That's… it's speculation, but it sort of makes sense, and a lot of scientists are working very hard to try to figure this out now."

Check out the rest of these baffling medical conditions.

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