Elephant Man's Disease

Elephant Man's disease is a term that refers to the severely disfiguring condition suffered by Englishman Joseph Merrick (1862-1890) during the 19th century. Reportedly born normal, his body began to change very early and by adulthood his deformities were so great that he could only make a living as a side-show "freak." While being displayed to audiences from a London store he was observed by surgeon Dr. Howard Traves who subsequently introduced his case to the British medical community. The severity of his condition, and the interest it garnered from the medical community brought him an invitation to live at the hospital. As his case garnered fame he was visited by many people from the upper echelons of British society. His condition has never been conclusively diagnosed although it was originally believed to be neurofibromatosis, a disease that causes tumors to grow rapidly throughout the body. However, modern researchers lean towards the possible diagnosis of Proteus syndrome, a disease that causes severe and random changes in the skin and bone structure.

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