In an era of less media scrutiny, John F. Kennedy hid serious health problems from the public

November 20, 2013

An article published in Annals of Internal Medicine discusses the surprising health history of President John F. Kennedy. At the age of 43, Kennedy was the youngest man ever elected president. During his campaign and presidency, the media portrayed him as the epitome of youth and vigor. However, a review of Kennedy's White House medical records, as well as correspondence from his physicians, reveal that Kennedy had the most complex medical history of any U.S. president. Unbeknownst to the public, Kennedy was diagnosed with Addison's disease, a rare endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands do not produce enough of the hormone cortisol. Later, when Kennedy was a senator, he was found to have hypothyroidism. During the 1960 campaign for the presidency, Kennedy's physician denied the Addison's diagnosis and deflected further probes with a carefully-worded statement to the media. Today, with newly available evidence, researchers can plausibly conclude that Kennedy had a rare unifying autoimmune endocrine disorder called polyendocrine syndrome type II, or APS II, which is characterized by the coexistence of hypothyroidism and Addison's disease, among other conditions.
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*This article was published in Annals of Internal Medicine on September 1, 2009. Full text of the article is free to the public and available at http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=744707. Annals of Internal Medicine citation is required for coverage.

American College of Physicians

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