Friday, February 13, 2009

Question from Michelle - Henry's leg ulcer

I have read that near the end of his life henery suffred from an ulceration of his leg. i would like to know what caused this,which was by all accounts a large,open,stinking sore which later became gangreeneous and he later died due to gangreen or blood posion caused by this sore. Also is there any evidence this could have been caused by diabeaties? Where can I find information on this???

[Ed. note - this was partially covered in the thread below]


PhD Historian said...

I addressed the possible origins of the leg ulcer in the post to which Lara provided a link. The most likely causes are osteomyelitis or necrosis resulting from poor circulation that itself resulted from obesity.

While diabetics do often suffer ulcerations of the feet and legs, those complications are seen only in long-term diabetes (many years). Because diabetes was untreatable in the 16th century, it is unlikely that Henry had it long term ... if he had it at all.

I would be very curious to know which historians have said that Henry due to gangrene or septicemia (blood poisoning). Certainly both are possible, but the group of symptoms reported at this death support other causes as well. Not least of those is congestive heart failure.

Bearded Lady said...

Although Henry VIII was a prime candidate for diabetes, I find it highly unlikely that he suffered from the disease. 16th century doctors knew how to detect type 2 diabetes mellitus by tasting urine. If a patient had sweet urine then there was a high probability that they had the “sugar disease.” With Henry’s bodily excretions so closely examined, I find it hard to believe that his physician didn’t bother to note a sweet taste in his urine and prescribe the appropriate cure to balance his humours.

Historian Susan Kybett Maclean believes Henry’s ulcer did not heal because of scurvy. (Scurvy causes wounds to form puss, irritability, headaches etc.). I am not in the medical profession, but I personally think it is impossible to diagnose a patient of the past. Really, there are a thousand different conditions that could have caused Henry's leg ulcer.

Anonymous said...

Henry was fond of tight leggings, and of course activities like hunting and jousting, which required their own tight armor or clothing. This can cause varicose veins in the long term, which eventually ulcerate and heal as they come to the surface of the skin and/or are untreated. In Henry's case, it is even worse because the docs of the day kept the wound open over the years to "let the infection out" and did not let it heal! No wonder he was so grumpy in his later years.

Roz said...

Is it not shown as an old jousting injury that just did not heal due to poor management and lack of health care in those days. In most portrayals of his life this is the version I have seen most often as the cause of his suppurating leg.

Anonymous said...

osteomyelitis is the most reasonable answer. I am a student nurse and we have seen and studied alot of infections. In doing some research there would be an infection in the bone and muscle tissue causing ulcers discribed as to what King Henry had.

charlee said...

I thought it was syphilis that caused the stinky sores, everyone had it in those days