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Proteus Syndrome is a congenital disorder that causes skin overgrowth and atypical bone development, often accompanied by tumors on over half the body. Since Dr. Michael Cohen identified it in 1979, only a few more than 200 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with estimates that about 120 people are currently with the condition. There may be many more than this, but those individuals correctly diagnosed usually have the most obvious manifestations of Proteus syndrome, leaving them severely disfigured. Proteus syndrome is named after the Greek sea-god Proteus, who could change his shape.
Additional recommended knowledge
This extremely rare condition would have remained obscure, were it not for the fact that Joseph Merrick — immortalized as the "Elephant Man" for a look imparted by his large facial tumours and the grayish hue of his overgrown skin — was lately diagnosed as having a particularly severe case of Proteus syndrome rather than, or in addition to, the neurofibromatosis that doctors once thought he had. Oddly, Merrick's left arm and his genitals were entirely unaffected by the condition that grotesquely deformed every other portion of his body.
Proteus syndrome causes an overgrowth of skin, bones, muscles, fatty tissues, and blood and lymphatic vessels.
Proteus syndrome is a progressive condition, wherein children are usually born without any obvious deformities. As they age, tumours as well as skin and bone growths appear. The severity and locations of these various asymmetrical growths vary greatly but typically the skull, one or more limbs and soles of the feet will be affected. There is a risk of premature death in affected individuals due to deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism caused by the vessel malformations that are associated with this disorder. Further risks may occur due to the mass of extra tissue - Merrick himself died when he was choked by the weight of his head whilst asleep.
The disorder itself does not directly cause learning impairments: the distribution of intelligence among sufferers of Proteus syndrome mirrors that of the general population. However, the growths may cause secondary damage to the nervous system leading to cognitive disability. In addition, the presence of visible deformity may have a negative effect on the social experiences of the sufferer, causing cognitive and social deficits.
While doctors can treat some of the symptoms (by removing tumors, for example), there is no known cure. Research into the causes of the condition is ongoing in the UK, supported by the Medical Board of the Proteus Family Network UK.
Many sources classify Proteus syndrome to be a type of nevus syndrome. Due to the mosaic distribution of lesions, it is hypothesized (but not confirmed) that the disorder is an example of genetic mosaicism.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Proteus_syndrome". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|