Hemophilia, once known as the “disease of kings” or “royal disease”, has had many famous people throughout history that suffered from it. Although modern testing techniques can now detect this genetic disorder, for much of history it could only be discovered the hard way: when a person would get injured and not stop bleeding. Unfortunately, death by blood loss was often the outcome of hemophilia before the advent of modern medicine.
Hemophilia first earned its nickname because of Queen Victoria, who transmitted the disorder to her son Leopold, and onward to other royal lineages of Europe. Since the recessive gene for hemophilia is on the X gene, it rarely shows up in women, but if the mother is carrying the gene, her son has a 50% chance of inheriting the syndrome. Other famous historical figures have been confirmed or suspected hemophiliacs.
Richard Burton, the famous actor of the ’60s and ’70s was known for his Academy Award-nominated films and romance with Elizabeth Taylor. He was diagnosed with the syndrome, and even started a foundation, the Richard Burton Hemophilia fund, to help others with this rare condition. He passed away of a cerebral hemorrhage at the relatively young age of 58.
Genghis Khan, perhaps the most famous conqueror of all time, was rumored to have hemophilia. This is impossible to confirm, but the claim is probably not true, since he lived a life of constant war, and a single cut would have been sufficient to kill him.
President Abraham Lincoln was rumored to have hemophilia as well. Although many people have suspected Lincoln had a genetic disorder, his physical traits suggest that he may have had Marfan syndrome instead.
Although Mother Theresa lived an active life to an advanced age, she was rumored to have hemophilia as well, but as stated above, hemophilia in women is rare, and most hemophiliacs die young.
The last Tsar of Russia, Alexi, was a confirmed hemophiliac, and oddly enough, the mystical treatments of the monk Rasputin seemed to help the symptoms.
Ryan White is a recent hemophiliac that contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion, and fought for the rights of hemophiliacs and AIDS victims worldwide.
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