If we want to discuss a truly deforming disease – one that certainly causes your physical appearance to change – we may not have to look any further than a disease called Elephantiasis. This disease does exactly what it sounds like it does: excessive fluid buildup within the appendages of your body cause them to swell up to such a point where researchers literally could not come up with a better name than Elephantiasis.
This disease is associated with a problem in your lymphatic system, which is pretty much the system by which your body is able to remove excess fluid from all parts of your body. For those unlucky enough to be afflicted with Elephantiasis, their lymphatic system is compromised which causes their tissues to swell almost endlessly.
The disease is caused by several types of worms, and roughly 100 million people were affected by the disease as of 2000. This disease is not very common in first world countries, given the increased quality of healthcare, so you probably don’t have too much to worry about.
Elephantiasis is very common in pop culture; a play was made about a man named Joseph Merrick, who had a unique manifestation of the disease. The play has had several notable actors, including Mark Hamill, David Bowie, and most recently Bradley Cooper.
The fact that a play would be made surrounding such a morbid topic is a testament to the fascination humans have with disfigurement and “grotesque” concepts.
This play highlighted the personal life of Joseph Merrick, and offers the audience somewhat of an insight into what it means to have the disease. The play is obviously dramatized and intended to entertain rather than educate, but according to critics the play does a wonderful job in detailing the emotional toll of the disease.
Pictured above is Joseph Merrick. It’s pretty bad.
Why would anybody want to see a play over such a depressing topic? Many people have an attraction to things that are dark and morbid, which probably includes you if you’re on this blog.
People are interested in such topics because of how foreign they are. People are obsessed with things like elephantiasis because the odds that you develop this disease or meet somebody afflicted is very low. We can’t help but wonder what it would be like.
It doesn’t mean we’re psychopaths, or that we’re insane. It’s human nature to be curious. And I mean come on, there’s a disease that literally makes people look inhuman – to the point where the scientific name of the disease has the word “elephant” in it. How are we supposed to NOT be curious about this.
The deformity of the body is brought upon by a number of different circumstances, not just disease. It’s important to realize that just because one is deformed on the outside, doesn’t mean that they are any different from a personality standpoint. The play about Joseph Merrick did a wonderful job in reminding its audience of this fact.
You’re probably not going to get this disease, or ever encounter it in your life. But that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to be curious.