5 of the World's Rarest Skin Conditions


This next condition sounds like a rumor you'd hear on the playground as a child, but it is very true. People who suffer from argyria develop gray or even blue skin. As we mentioned earlier, the "Blue Man" from Barnum and Bailey had argyria. Pictures of people who suffer from the condition at first appear photoshopped.

Though it seems out of this world, people who ingest or are exposed to large amounts of silver over a long period of time will develop this condition. Development from skin exposure can happen to silver mine workers, or those who work with silver in manufacturing or developing photographs. Some have taken silver supplements because they were advertised as a cure an array of ailments, such as arthritis, diabetes or even AIDS. Others are believed to have developed the condition from the silver used in dental fillings [source: New Zealand Dermatological Society].

Argyria is a permanent condition without a clear cure as of yet. Although silver has been known to have more dangerous toxic effects on the body, the only negative side effect people with argyria will usually have is the change in skin pigmentation [source: Padlewska].

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • 10news.com. "Man Survives Rare Skin-Shedding Disease." 10news.com. Updated Nov 16, 2004. (May 27, 2010)http://www.10news.com/health/3919722/detail.html
  • CNN/MayoClinic. "Stevens-Johnson syndrome." CNN/MayoClinic. Updated April 10, 2009. (May 27, 2010)http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/stevens-johnson-syndrome/DS00940.html
  • Foundation for Ichthyosis and Related Skin Types (FIRST). "About Ichthyosis: FAQ." (June 8, 2009)http://www.scalyskin.org/column.cfm?ColumnID=13
  • Harvey, H B, et al. "Perinatal/Neonatal Case Presentation: Perinatal management of harlequin ichthyosis: a case report and literature review." Journal of Perinatology. Reviewed June 9, 2009. (May 27, 2010)http://www.nature.com/jp/journal/v30/n1/full/jp2009100a.html
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  • New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated. "Xeroderma pigmentosum." June 15, 2009. (May 27, 2010)http://dermnetnz.org/systemic/xeroderma-pigmentosum.html
  • NIH. "Harlequin ichthyosis." National Institutes of Health: Office of Rare Diseases Research. (May 27, 2010)http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/GARD/Condition/6568/Harlequin_ichthyosis.aspx
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  • NIH. "Harlequin ichthyosis." Genetics Home Reference. National Institutes of Health. May 23, 2010. (May 27, 2010)http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/harlequin-ichthyosis
  • NIH. "Xeroderma pigmentosa." Medline Plus. National Institutes of Health. May 7, 2009. (May 27, 2010)http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001467.htm
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