Imagine breaking your arm, but not realizing you were hurt until you saw the bone poking out. For one Washington state man, this unusual situation is the norm— thanks to a genetic condition which causes insensitivity to pain and the inability to smell.
Steven Pete, 33, suffers from congenital analgesia, sometimes referred to as congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP), which surprisingly has its advantages, news.com.au reported.
“I’ve had so many injuries over the years that it’s hard to recall,” Pete told news.com.au.
Pete, who lives in Longview, Washington, was diagnosed when he was about four months old, according to his website, The Facts of Painless People. His parents became concerned after he was chewing on his tongue and his pediatrician diagnosed him with the condition. His younger brother, Chris, also has the same diagnosis.
In 2011, the brothers underwent genetic testing that confirmed they had genetic mutations of the SCN9A gene, which causes insensitivity to pain.
“There’ve been times when I’ve cut my feet open and have walked around without knowing,” he told news.com.au. “I actually sliced my pinky finger open just the other day making dinner and didn’t notice. My brother-in-law had to tell me — I looked and there was blood all over the place.”
Because of all his injuries, his body is constantly trying to heal itself, Pete told news.com.au, adding that he currently has back problems and issues with his right hip. While the pain isn’t an issue, the extreme discomfort is, as he does have a sense of touch.
“If I’m lying in bed at night I’m sensing my body trying to constantly heal itself. It’s getting worse and worse — I only get three to four hours sleep so it has psychological effect on me,” he told news.com.au.
“I try to remain positive. It’s difficult when you don’t feel pain because you’re always going through this underlying feeling of your body trying to heal itself so you’re lacking energy a lot, you don’t feel in the best of moods.”
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), congenital insensitivity to pain is a rare condition, with only 20 cases having been reported in medical literature.