Los Angeles John F. Kennedy’s Addison’s disease, which came to light only after his election as president in 1960, was most likely caused by a rare autoimmune disease, according to a Navy doctor who reviewed Kennedy’s medical records. The disorder, called autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type 2, or APS 2, also caused Kennedy’s hypothyroidism, according to a report published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
In today’s hyperactive media environment where the smallest sneeze of a celebrity is thoroughly analyzed, it is difficult to believe Kennedy’s family and advisers were able to keep his medical history virtually a complete secret. The youngest man ever elected to the presidency at age 43, JFK was pictured as healthy and vibrant. In reality, he suffered from a variety of problems that were kept in check by a daily regimen of steroids and other drugs.
Addison’s disease is characterized by the withering away of the adrenal glands, which produce adrenaline and other hormones. About 20 percent of cases are the aftermath of tuberculosis; the rest are autoimmune in origin.