Revealed 500 years later: how Columbus died
28 February 2007, GRANADA — Christopher Columbus did not suffer from gout, as contemporaries thought, but from an inflammatory disorder known as Reiter's syndrome, according to a new study published on Wednesday.
28 February 2007
GRANADA — Christopher Columbus did not suffer from gout, as contemporaries thought, but from an inflammatory disorder known as Reiter's syndrome, according to a new study published on Wednesday.
Five centuries after his death, Columbus remains cloaked in mystery, but Dr. Antonio Rodriguez Cuartero, a professor at the University of Granada, believes he died of heart failure.
Dr Cuatero has studied and analyzed all the available information about his ailments in an effort to at least shed light on this aspect of the life of the discoverer of America.
The expert, who has published several articles about the illnesses suffered by various figures in Spanish history, said despite the fact that the early years of the admiral's life are a mystery because his family erased all traces of it, more is known about his pathology, thanks to his diary and the writings of his son, Hernando, and Father Bartolome de Las Casas.
"Through these writings, we can piece together a nearly complete clinical history of Columbus, but you have to know how to interpret it to avoid mistakes," he said.
Dr. Cuartero claims the explorer could not have had gout - an ailment frequently mentioned in the writings - based on the symptoms described and family history.
The doctor based his conclusion on the earliest references to the ailments plaguing Columbus, which date back to 1476, when the admiral was 25 and began suffering from pain in his joints and bleeding from the eyes, which the physicians of the time blamed on attacks of gout.
Gout is caused by an accumulation of uric acid in the cartilage of the joints.
Sufferers can experience sudden and excruciating pain, swelling, redness and other symptoms.
Dr. Cuartero said, however, that Columbus was not "a big eater, or fat, and his descendants did not have the pathology" that gout sufferers have, with the symptoms the admiral had being more indicative of Reiter's syndrome.
Reiter's syndrome is a type of arthritis that mainly affects males between the ages of 20 and 40, occurring usually as a reaction to an infection developing in some part of the body.
The majority of the infections that cause the illness originate in the urinary system and are usually contracted via sexual transmission, although Dr. Cuartero said that in the case of Columbus it was a gastrointestinal infection.
The doctor said Columbus, unlike his crew, "was not a womanizer and observed the rules of his class" when choosing a woman, explaining why he was likely "not infected by any sexual disease".
"His children described Columbus as being crippled for many months and, in addition, he had ocular hemorrhages. They do not say anything about urethritis, which is the third symptom, but it was quite common among Spaniards of that time, so it is almost certain that he suffered from that illness," the doctor said.
Christopher Columbus was not afflicted by other diseases common in the 15th and 16th centuries, such as syphilis, malaria, typhus, rheumatoid arthritis or scurvy, Dr. Cuartero said.
Like his origins, the later years of Columbus's life continue to be a mystery.
What is known is he arrived in Spain in irons on the orders of King Ferdinand and until his death was "very sick and in dire economic straits" because he refused to accept an exchange of the privileges of the Captaincy of Discovery for Carrion de los Condes, as proposed by the monarch.
"The great admiral died sick, without enough money even to eat, disappointed and in the most complete anonymity," Dr. Cuartero said.
Columbus did not suffer from "the diseases of old age or respiratory (illnesses) because he never smoked," so the cause of death "may have been cardiac failure, caused by weakness of the organ system," Dr. Cuartero said.
The majority of historians agree that the remains of Columbus, who died 20 May 1506, in Valladolid, Spain, were reinterred, in accordance with his wishes, on the island of Hispaniola, in today's Dominican Republic.
Historians add, however, that in 1795, after more than two centuries at rest in Santo Domingo, and following the cession of the island to France under the terms of the Treaty of Basle, Spain recovered the admiral's remains and took them first to Havana and later to Seville.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news