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Louisa May Alcott: her mysterious illness.

Authors
Hirschhorn-N; Greaves-I
Source
Perspect Biol Med 2007 Mar; 50(2):243-259
NIOSHTIC No.
20037478
Abstract
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), famous in her own time and immortalized in ours as a major figure of the "American Renaissance," died at the age of 55 after intermittent suffering over 20 years. Her illnesses evoked intense interest in her time and in ours. Alcott tracked her signs and symptoms (in letters and journal entries), which included headaches and vertigo, rheumatism, musculoskeletal pain, and skin rashes; in her final years she recorded severe dyspepsia with symptoms of obstruction, and headaches compatible with severe hypertension. Her death came suddenly with a stroke. Standard biographies propose that her illnesses were due to acute mercury poisoning from inorganic mercury medication she received for a bout of typhoid in 1863, a cause she herself believed. We have reviewed Alcott's observations, as well as those of others, and have determined that acute mercury poisoning could not have caused her long-term complaints. We propose instead that Alcott suffered a multi-system disease, possibly originating from effects of mercury on the immune system. A portrait of Alcott raises the possibility that she had systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Keywords
Disease-incidence; Exposure-assessment; Exposure-levels; Exposure-methods; Musculoskeletal-system; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Physical-reactions; Physiological-disorders; Physiological-response; Poisons; Toxic-effects; Toxic-materials; Toxicopathology; Heavy-metals
CODEN
PBMEA8
CAS No.
7439-97-6
Publication Date
20070301
Document Type
Journal Article
Funding Type
Grant
Fiscal Year
2007
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
Grant-Number-T42-OH-008434
Issue of Publication
2
ISSN
0031-5982
Source Name
Perspectives in Biology and Medicine
State
MN
Performing Organization
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
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