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10 Medical Conditions Once Found in Sideshows


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Lymphedema
Fanny Mills had Milroy disease, which caused lymphedema in her lower body. Public Domain
Fanny Mills had Milroy disease, which caused lymphedema in her lower body. Public Domain

Nothing leaves a fouler taste in a lady's mouth than a tongue-in-cheek romantic challenge. You know, the kind of thing teen movies are built on where someone is basically given a trial to fake a relationship with some "undesirable" partner. This act also took place in the sideshow world, and it was pretty horrible. Take Fanny Mills, also known as "the Ohio Bigfoot Lady", who travelled around towns showcasing her abnormally large lower legs and feet. Any man who wanted to marry her, posters promised, would get $5,000 for his trouble [source: Pednaud]. Pretty terrible, right? Well, at least we know now that Fanny actually was married to a close friend's brother. Joke's on everyone else.

Mills had Milroy disease, which affects the lymphatic system. Mills' condition caused her to develop lymphedema, where lymph fluids accumulate in the body and cause swelling at birth or infancy [source: Genetics Home Reference]. The disease can also lead to cellulitis, a skin infection that exacerbates swelling. The effect can be profound, as it was in Mills' case: Her feet were supposedly 19 inches (48 centimeters) long and 10 inches (25 centimeters) across [source: Hartzman].