US NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY US NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man (1862-1890). Historical artwork of Joseph Merrick, a British man called The Elephant Man for his disfigured face and limbs. He was originally believed to have elephantiasis (a parasitic disease) or neurofibromatosis (tumours on the nerves). In 1986, it was found that Proteus syndrome, not identified until 1979, closely fitted Merrick's symptoms. Proteus syndrome is a progressive genetic disorder, where children are born without symptoms but develop tissue and bone growths as they age. The severity and locations of these growths varies, but affected areas usually include the head, at least one limb and feet. There is no known cure for this disorder.
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