Advertisement

The Girl Who Couldn't Stop Sneezing, and Other Medical Oddities

2009-11-12 11:49

In Chesapeake, Virginia, 12-year-old Lauren Johnson sneezes more than 12,000 times a day – about 16 times each minute. She hasn’t been able to attend school, it is too disruptive to class, and she has visited six different doctors and a hypnotherapist since the attacks began two weeks ago.

Unfortunately, there is not a clear diagnosis, but a neurologist suspects a rare condition called irretractable psychogenic disorder, which could be triggered by stress. There are less than 40 cases documented worldwide. An allergist believes that the condition that Lauren has, also rare, is called machine-gun sneezing, triggered by allergies, sinus problems, or growths in the nasal passage. Although her condition remains unsolved, thankfully, Lauren does get some relief at night as the sneezing stops during deep sleep.

Unusual as Lauren's condition is, she's not the first person to suffer from incessant sneezing.
Two years ago, "Good Morning America" reported on Brooke Owens, who sneezed constantly. Since then, she has had bouts of sneezing that can last up to six weeks, putting her in immense pain. "It feel like sharp needles or knives going through my hands and my toes," she said. "If somebody even touches me, I scream."

Other people around the world suffer from conditions that are rare and unusual.

Almost three years ago, Jennifer Mee, a teen from Florida, spoke on the Today show about her uncontrollable hiccups. After suffering for months, she was finally diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome and went on medication that controlled the hiccuping.

Advertisement

In North Wales, England, 2-year-old Tianna Lewis McHugh, has been diagnosed with a very rare condition called reflex anoxic seizure, or RAS. The simple act of crying could induce a fatal seizure. Tianna was diagnosed with the condition at 18-months-old which causes a temporary cut off of the blood supply to the brain. She has since survived 10 seizures, which her father describes as “horrendous”.

Baby Z, born 2008 in Melbourne Australia, is an infant that was given no chance of survival after being diagnosed with an incredibly rare genetic condition that causes her brain to dissolve. The condition, called molybdenum cofactor deficiency, is caused by excessive amounts of toxic sulphite. Thankfully, doctors in Germany found an experimental drug, cPMP or cyclic pyranoprterin monophosphate, that had only been tested on mice, which seems to have resolved Baby Z’s condition. Her neurological development is delayed due to brain damage that occurred bfore the treatment, but Baby Z’s parents are overjoyed with the results. The full details of the treatment are now being analysed for a planned human trial of the medication.

52-year-old Mike Hallowell, from the United Kingdom, has been diagnosed with cataplexy, a sudden loss of muscle tone triggered by an emotional outbreak. Since the condition began six years ago after oral surgery, Hallowell cannot laugh, as this would cause a collapse. “Thankfully, it only happens occasionally, “ he says.

And finally, Alice a 59-year-old woman who will not reveal her last name, develops amnesia after sex. One evening in August, her husband rushed her to the emergency room after she could not remember basic things, such as the President’s name. Neurologists diagnosed her with transient global amnesia, which is triggered by strenuous activity, sex being a well-known precipitator of the condition. Patients with a history of migraines and headaches are more likely to get TGA, which results from a temporary lack of blood flow to the blood vessels in the brain. TGA usually occurs once, but in some cases, it could become recurrent