In the autumn of 1792 the artist Francisco de Goya fell ill. He turned to the doctors who diagnosed him with colic. Then, in winter, an unknown disease chained him to bed. The recovery took almost two years, and the result of this disease was complete deafness. The hearing specialist Ronna Hertzano from the University of Maryland at the Historical Clinicopathological Conference was asked to find out what kind of disease the artist might have.
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From the letters of Francisco de Goya it is known that before hearing, he heard a noise in his ears. In addition, he had problems with movement – he was afraid to fall when he walked on the stairs. The artist complained of a severe headache, he did not see well, and he also had hallucinations and, occasionally, paralysis. According to Ronnie Herzano, most likely, the disease initially affected the brain, and after that the hearing was affected. This could be manifestations of syphilis or meningitis, but the symptoms of these diseases did not completely coincide with the description of the patient’s condition. It is also known that Goya often used paints with lead content when writing the pictures, but experts excluded the lead poisoning, as, with the exception of deafness, Goya recovered from the disease.
Ronna Herzano stated that, perhaps, the artist was Susak syndrome – this rare autoimmune disease can cause hallucinations, paralysis and loss of hearing. These symptoms were observed in Goya. The Susaka syndrome affects the arterioles of the brain, the cochlea of the ear and the retina of the eye. The disease lasts from one to three years.