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Elizabeth Barrett Browning's illness deciphered after 150 years
Date:12/19/2011

on. According to Buchanan, there is slight evidence of an uncle in Barrett Browning's family who may have suffered the same symptoms. While Elizabeth and Robert did have a son, he apparently had no offspring so there are no living descendants.

A variety of triggers can initiate weakness for people with a periodic paralysis, says Buchanan. Common triggers for people with HKPP include anything that increases secretion of insulin -- alcohol, hunger or high carbohydrate foods -- table salt, excessive heat or cold, sudden temperature change, illness, sleep, exercise or some medications. Symptoms of HKPP generally first appear at puberty.

Barrett Browning's first bout occurred after a minor illness, which was followed by measles. Her health continued to decline, and although physicians were unable to diagnose her malady, one prescribed opium to which she became addicted for life. This illness lasted for more than a year and at times she was so weak she could not sit upright without support.

Barrett Browning writes in the diary that she kept during her 25th year of other triggers for her ailment. She notes becoming weak after eating a generous portion of honey, a substance that would increase insulin production. She reports an episode that followed an outing where she ran down a hill, was rained upon and thoroughly soaked.

Throughout her life, she suffered terribly during the cold damp winters in England, especially in London, and only found some relief after marrying Robert Browning and escaping to the warmer, milder climate of Italy.

Other incidents in her life that she recorded include suffering terribly after a day of religious fasting. Hunger is a strong HKPP trigger. Her letters to Browning, her 25th year diary and other letters to friends and relatives describe not only the symptoms of her disease, which mirror those of HKPP suffers and Buchanan Weiss specifically, but also a list of triggers that are now known to be specific triggers for H
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Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer
aem1@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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