Vampirism - a medical perspective


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A Medical Perspective

Vampires have continued to fascinate us and stimulate our imaginations for thousands of years. Indeed, many humans have been accused of being vampires over the centuries due to the fact that their physical characteristics resembled the traits of these blood-sucking monsters. However, modern science has since shed some light on the vampire myth, highlighting three medical conditions that may well explain why some unfortunate souls were mistaken for these dark creatures of the night.

  1. Anaemia

    Anaemia is a disease of the blood in which the red-cell count is extremely low. The symptoms of anaemia include a pale complexion, fatigue, fainting spells, shortness of breath and digestive disorders - all indications of an inadequate oxygen supply (red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body).

    To a society gripped by the ever-present fear of vampires lurking in the shadows the sight of a severely anaemic person was a sure sign that they were a vampire victim who was in the process of turning into one themselves!

  2. Catalepsy

    Catalepsy is a dysfunction of the nervous system that causes a slowing down of the bodies regulatory functions, so much so that to the untrained eye the person appears dead. Sufferers also lose voluntary muscle control, their bodies becoming rigid for sometimes days on end. They can see and hear but cannot move or speak.

    Prior to the twentieth century catalepsy victims were often pronounced dead, and it is highly likely that many were buried alive, only to dig themselves out of their graves once they had awoken - a sight guaranteed to perpetuate the vampire myth!

  3. Porphyria

    Porphyria is a rare hereditary blood disease with symptoms that are uncannily similar to what we now perceive as the classic characteristics of a vampire. People with this disorder cannot produce heme, an essential component of red blood. This makes them extremely sensitive to sunlight, develop sores and scars that do not heal properly, grow excessive amounts of hair, become allergic to garlic and have tightened skin around the lips and gums, thus making the incisors more conspicuous.

    Porphyria was relatively unknown as a disease until about the mid-twentieth century, but it is now treatable using regular injections of heme.


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