The Mystery Behind the Elephant Man Disease
John Merrick famously known as the Elephant Man was a man from London in the 19th century. He was known for his severe physical deformities that made him look like an elephant. However the question that always arises is what disease did he have?
Who was the Elephant Man?
John Merrick was born in 1862 in Leicester England with no visible deformities. However when he turned five his face began to enlarge leading to severe physical deformities that greatly affected his life. As he continued to grow his physical condition worsened leading to him being cast out of his home leading life as a vagabond across the country.
The Elephant Man Disease
For years the exact diagnosis of Merrick’s condition remained a mystery. However doctors have now established that Merrick had a rare disease known as Proteus syndrome. Proteus syndrome is a genetic condition that causes the overgrowth of bones skin other tissues. It is an extremely rare disorder with only a few hundred people known to have the disorder.
Symptoms of Proteus Syndrome
Proteus syndrome can cause a wide range of symptoms affecting different parts of the body its progression is unpredictable making it hard to diagnose. Some of the common symptoms of Proteus syndrome include:
- Overgrowth of skin bones muscles or fatty tissues
- Unilateral limb or digit hypertrophy
- Spinal abnormalities
- Congenital tumors
- Hemihypertrophy of the body
- Asymmetrical growth of the skull
Treatment of Proteus Syndrome
Since Proteus syndrome is a genetic disorder there is no cure for it. Doctors can only treat the symptoms to help improve the patient’s quality of life. In some cases surgery may be necessary to remove tumors or correct spinal abnormalities. Physical therapy orthopedic devices can also help manage symptoms such as scoliosis.
John Merrick’s story has been immortalized in literature popular culture but the underlying condition behind his physical deformities was a mystery for years. With modern medical research doctors have identified the Elephant Man disease as Proteus syndrome a rare genetic disorder causing the overgrowth of bones skin other tissues. While there is no cure for the disorder effective management of symptoms can provide much-needed relief to patients allowing them to lead as normal a life as possible.
Discussion about this post