Health News Digest


December 26, 2016

Two Offbeat Topics To Round Out The Year

By Michael D. Shaw

Let’s ring out 2016 with something a bit different…



This term refers to a condition whereby the individual has extra digits (six or more) on the hand or foot. It’s not as rare as you might think. Here are some stats from Health Research Funding: In the US, polydactyly occurs in one out of 500 to 1,000 newborns—affecting boys and girls about equally. The condition is around nine times more common in Blacks than in Whites. (1 in 143, compared to 1 in 1339)

As with most abnormalities, the effects are predominantly negative. Typically, these extra digits are small and non-functional, and are usually removed before age 2. Rarely, though, the condition will present with an otherwise normal looking hand, albeit provided with a thumb and five good fingers. In such cases, the “sufferer” often elects to keep his very distinctive hand intact.

The world record holder for largest number of digits is Akshat Saxena, of India. He was born in 2010 with seven digits on each hand and ten digits on each foot, for a total of 34 digits. Unfortunately, the child was born without thumbs, but has undergone a series of surgeries to remedy the situation.

It is often reported that polydactyly is a dominant genetic trait, and this is true—as long the condition is caused by a single gene. However, polydactyly can also present as a symptom of a larger syndrome. (e.g. Carpenter syndrome; Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome; Bardet-Biedl syndrome; and others.) These are rare and serious afflictions, and are almost always recessive genetic traits.

Many celebrities claim to have been born with extra digits that were removed shortly after birth. Kate Hudson and Halle Berry retain their extra toes, and legends abound of ancient races of giants with six digits on each hand.

Speaking of legends, how about this urban legend…


Black-Eyed Kids (BEKs)

Stories of BEKs first appeared in the late 1990s, and described encounters with odd children, ranging in age from five to mid-teens. The kids are often extremely pale, but in all instances have one amazing characteristic: Their eyes are completely jet black, with no discernible sclera (whites), iris, or pupil. Every encounter seems to involve the BEKs asking to gain entrance to your home or vehicle—as the case may be.

Usually, owing to the general creepiness of the BEKs, access is denied. In some rare cases, though, people have reported letting them in, whereupon the BEKs do leave after a short time under mysterious circumstances. (One example of “mysterious” is them claiming to hear their parents’ car outside coming to collect them—such car not being heard by the homeowner.) However, in those sorts of encounters, the homeowner invariably reveals that some great misfortune—such as chronic or even fatal illnesses—has occurred soon after.

Thus, the public is warned to never let the BEKs inside!

So, this is all weird, creepy fun—not to mention that dozens of mostly awful videos have been created regarding BEKs. But, are there any rational medical explanations that could be considered?

This one comes to us from an anonymous Michigan-based tattoo artist and body piercer, courtesy of the Journal of the Bizarre.

Our Mr. X first mentions mydriasis (dilated pupils), caused by the recreational use of something he calls “cherry bombs”—a shot made out of Lomotil and Red Bull. A hallucinogenic effect is produced, and the resulting mydriasis is quite pronounced, even if it isn’t a full-on all black eye. Moreover, such drug users, he says, are gamers, geeks, and nerds obsessed with anime, cosplay, and comic books. These interests will tend to reinforce the overall BEK look, which can also make its adherents appear younger than they are.

Chances are, these kids will usually encounter people completely unaware of this whole anime and J-pop subculture. The “squares” will be freaked out, and may well remember the eyes as all-black. Therefore, to those observers, these “BEKs” are bizarre and…real. Mr. X thinks that the reason the kids always want to enter the house is simple enough: They need to use the bathroom. The best way to come off the “cherry bomb” high is to take a laxative.

Don’t try any of this at home.