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December 6, 2020
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Was Mary Todd Lincoln a Victim of the Forgotten Disease That Hadn't Been Described Yet?

While researching material for a book on Abraham Lincoln, Dr. John G. Sotos came across a letter written in 1852 in which Mary Todd Lincoln (1812-1882) is described as having a 'sore mouth'. Knowing this to be a common symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency (glossitis), the Johns Hopkins trained cardiologist, former chief scientist to WebMD and medical science advisor to multiple medical television series, began to collate medical accounts of the former First Lady's checkered life.

In a scholarly article published in 2016 and his book "The Mary Lincoln Mind-Body Sourcebook" (Mt. Vernon Book Systems, 2017), Dr. Sotos makes the case that no single diagnosis can explain the 30 year history of multiple, poorly defined symptoms and psychiatric illness as well as Pernicious Anemia does. He points out that her parents were both from a part of Scotland in which Pernicious Anemia was found to be more prevalent than expected and with her pallor, paresthesias, ataxia, episodic weakness, depression, frequent delusions, hallucinations and psychotic behavior, provide strong support for a diagnosis that had not been described yet - severe vitamin B12 deficiency.

Historical diagnoses are intriguing and whether or not they can be proven, should not diminish the value they provide. Whether Mrs Lincoln had Pernicious Anemia is not as important as that her many ailments are quite compatible with untreated severe vitamin B12 deficiency, many of which are often forgotten about today. This is the value of Dr. Sotos' medical sleuthing.

Sources:
Words You May Not Know
Glossitis
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Glossitis

Glossitis is typically characterized by an inflammation of the tongue. It can also cause changes in the tongue’s texture and color creating a shiny, red surface. Severe cases of glossitis can be painful and affect the way a person talks or eats and can have multiple causes, one of which is vitamin B12 deficiency.

Ataxia
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Ataxia

Ataxia is typically defined as the presence of abnormal, uncoordinated movements. This usage describes signs & symptoms without reference to specific diseases. An unsteady, staggering gait is described as an ataxic gait because walking is uncoordinated and appears to be ‘not ordered’. Many motor activities may be described as ataxic if they appear to others, or are perceived by patients, as uncoordinated.

Paraesthesia
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Paraesthesia

Paresthesia refers to a burning or prickling sensation that is usually felt in the hands, arms, legs, or feet, but can also occur in other parts of the body. The sensation, which happens without warning, is usually painless and described as tingling or numbness, skin crawling, or itching. Most people have experienced temporary paresthesia -- a feeling of "pins and needles" -- at some time in their lives when they have sat with legs crossed for too long. The feeling quickly goes away once the pressure is relieved. Chronic paresthesia is often a symptom of an underlying neurological disease or traumatic nerve damage.

Pallor
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Pallor

Undue paleness of the skin, observable also in certain mucous membranes, such as the CONJUNCTIVA and the lining of the mouth. Transient pallor may result from constriction of the blood vessels near the surface. Longer-term pallor may be due to ANAEMIA or lack of exposure to sunlight.

Hallucinations
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Hallucinations

Hallucinations involve sensing things such as visions, sounds, or smells that seem real but are not. These things are created by the mind.

Psychotic
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Psychotic

Psychotic disorders are severe mental disorders that cause abnormal thinking and perceptions. People with psychoses lose touch with reality. Two of the main symptoms are delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs, such as thinking that someone is plotting against you or that the TV is sending you secret messages. Hallucinations are false perceptions, such as hearing, seeing, or feeling something that is not there.

Who Wrote This
Jonathan Bortz MD
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Jonathan’s background as a practicing diabetes specialist for 15 years and 17-year career developing nutritional prescriptive products for the pharmaceutical industry has contributed to his ability to understand nutrients, how they work and why they are important.

Over the years he has acquired broad and in-depth knowledge in minerals, essential fatty acids and other nutrients, but has special expertise in Vitamin B12 and choline metabolism. He is often asked to speak at national and international venues to articulate why B12, folate and choline are so important to gene function, brain development, liver and cardiovascular health. He applies pharmaceutical standards to nutrient science and has developed a unique ability to translate complicated concepts into simple promotional messages that resonate with practitioners and consumers. He has developed dozens of innovative nutritional products, of which many are category leaders in the US. Jonathan obtained his medical degree from the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School in South Africa and did his fellowship in Endocrinology at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

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