Medical hoaxes

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Today I read about the hoax medical conditons Cello Scrotum and Guitar Nipple in The IndependantThe Daily Mail responded with a few stranger than fiction real maladies such as:


Occurs when sufferers lose control of a limb, most likely due to a faulty brain wiring. The ‘alien’ hand can prove most unhelpful — stubbing out a cigarette the other hand has just lit, or unzipping a fly the other has just zipped. Symptoms can be reduced by keeping the alien hand busy, by perhaps giving it a puzzle to unravel or object to hold. If all else fails, pop a tea cosy over it and hope it calms down.

Named after a French neurologist, this is a rare disorder in which a person believes he or she is either dead, does not exist, is putrefying or has somehow mislaid his or her blood and/or internal organs. It is a form of mental illness and is associated with depression. Treatment is difficult — electro-convulsive therapy has had more success than drugs.

Exclusive to Japanese tourists, this causes those from Japan to suffer mental breakdowns while sightseeing in the city of romance. The condition affects about 12 out of every million visitors and is a severe form of culture shock, which kicks in when they discover that neither Paris nor its inhabitants are quite as they appear in films.

Symptoms are exacerbated when they are confronted by rude French waiters and, unable to argue back, the mild-mannered Japanese are forced to bottle their anger up — causing full mental breakdowns. The only cure is a return flight home.

In a bid to stem the problems, the Japanese embassy has now set up a 24-hour hotline for tourists suffering from severe culture shock.

Named after Italian stage actor Leopoldo Fregoli, who was famous for his rapid changes of appearance. This is a rare disorder in which a person mistakenly believes that several different people are in fact one person who is changing appearance, or is in a series of very convincing disguises.

Renders sufferers unable to speak other than in whispers, rhymes or a rather startling falsetto.

It is caused by spasms which prevent the vocal cords vibrating properly. There is no cure, but Botox injections can ease symptoms temporarily.

Oddly, symptoms appear to vanish when sufferers sing or recite poetry.

Fantastic. There’s enough quirky there to keep me imagining characters for years. Sadly, the poor old Mail failed to notice all of today’s headlines about Cello Scrotum lead into discussion of guitar nipple being exposed as a hoax and published it as one of their real diseases. If only they’d read the articles that inspired their spin.

2 Responses to “Medical hoaxes”

  1. Ross Says:

    A minor note, If you read Scott Adams blog (yes, the Dilbert guy), he had his Spasmodic Dysphonia cured by surgery.

  2. seraph Says:

    Very interesting!

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