Health and Medical History of President

John Tyler

President #10: 1841-1845
Lived 1790-1862
"Tyler was never in truly good health." 1a
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Health and Medical History of President

John Tyler

President #10: 1841-1845
Lived 1790-1862
Lived 1790-1862 2023 1776
Revolutionary War
War of 1812
Mexican-American War
Civil War
Spanish-American War
World War 1
World War 2
Korean War
Viet Nam War
Desert Storm
Bush's Wars
"Tyler was never in truly good health." 1a

Maladies & Conditions  · thin · symmetric paralysis · dysentery · frequent colds · general ills · stroke

Odds & Ends · Doctors · Resources · Cited Sources

Maladies and Conditions
Tyler was very thin all of his life. 1a
symmetric paralysis
While a 30 year old Congressman in Washington, Tyler developed an illness that remains difficult to diagnose. Based on Tyler's clear description of the illness MORE it would today be described as a symmetric, generalized, subacute paralysis. His recovery was so slow and prolonged that he resigned from Congress for two years 1b.

Possible diagnoses include Guillain-Barre syndrome, myasthenia gravis, tick paralysis, diphtheritic paralysis, and botulism 1c.

Tyler retired to his Virginia estate after leaving the White House. He suffered repeated attacks of dysentery in the summer 1c, the causes of which are unknown 1a.

Tyler had little faith in doctors. He regularly "took the waters" at various spas in Virginia. He became a believer in sulfur hydrotherapy. He also took "massive" doses of calomel regularly, which may have contributed to his gastrointestinal problems. 1c

frequent colds
Tyler frequently suffered from respiratory infections in the winter. 1d
general ills
During the last 8 years of his life, Tyler was afflicted with numerous unspecified aches and pains. He was prone to colds, arthritis, and kidney problems 1c. He wrote: "I have many aches and pains. They will attend on a sexogenarian, however, so be it, for I am convinced that it is all wisely ordained by providence" 1e
In January 1862, while serving in the Congress of the Confederacy, Tyler became dizzy and vomited, as he had in numerous previous episodes. He complained of a chill, and went downstairs for a cup of tea. He then slumped to the floor, unconscious, but revived 1e.

Tyler was ordered to bed the next day, and the day following complained of a suffocating feeling. He was treated with mustard plasters, brandy, and a morphine-containing cough medicine. He died soon afterwards 1e.

Most likely, Tyler died of a stroke. The episodes of dizziness beforehand were probably transient ischemic attacks 1e.

Odds and Ends
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Cited Sources
  1. Bumgarner, John R. The Health of the Presidents: The 41 United States Presidents Through 1993 from a Physician's Point of View. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Company, 1994.
    a  p.64  b  pp.64-65  c  p.65  d  pp.64, 65  e  p.66

    Comment: Devotes one chapter to each President, through Clinton. Written for the layperson, well-referenced, with areas of speculation clearly identified, Dr. Zebra depends heavily on this book. Dr. Bumgarner survived the Bataan Death March and has written an unforgettable book casting a physician's eye on that experience.

  2. Boller, Paul F. Jr. Presidential Anecdotes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
    a  p.97
  3. MacMahon, Edward B. and Curry, Leonard. Medical Cover-Ups in the White House. Washington, DC: Farragut, 1987.
    a  p.15
  4. Brockell, Gillian. The 10th president's last surviving grandson: A bridge to the nation's complicated past. Washington Post. 29 Nov. 2020.
Other Sources
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