-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Dec. 20, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- A leader of the French
Revolution might have suffered from a rare immune system disorder
in which the body starts to attack its own tissues and organs.
Researchers created a facial reconstruction of Maximilien de
Robespierre, using the face mask made by Madame Tussaud after he
was executed at the guillotine in 1794. They also reviewed
historical documents on his medical history.
This led them to conclude that Robespierre had sarcoidosis,
which causes small areas of inflammation in the body's tissues. The
condition, which most commonly affects the lungs, skin and lymph
nodes, often causes tiredness and a feeling of being unwell.
"We do not know which treatment was given by his personal physician, Dr. Joseph Souberbielle, but fruits might have been included (in view of his very high consumption of oranges) along with baths and bloodletting," the researchers wrote in the study, which was published in the Dec. 20 issue of the journal The Lancet.
The researchers, forensic scientists Philippe Charlier and
Philippe Froesch, said the historical documents included witness
descriptions of several clinical signs of sarcoidosis in
Robespierre. These included vision problems, nosebleeds, jaundice,
tiredness, leg ulcers, facial skin disease, and eye and mouth
twitching. The symptoms worsened between 1790 and 1794.
Charlier and Froesch also said other possible explanations for
some of Robespierre's symptoms -- such as tuberculosis or leprosy
-- do not fit exactly with his symptoms or the progression of his
The causes of sarcoidosis are not well understood, but in many
cases it goes into remission without treatment.
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