In Brief

A medical history of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson suffered a catalogue of serious illnesses which may have contributed to his premature death

Michael Jackson with an unidentified boy in 1993

Because Michael Jackson generally declined to discuss his illnesses, and appeared in public at various stages in a wheelchair, or wearing surgical masks, his health was a topic of constant speculation. There is little doubt he was beset by a range of problems which might have contributed to his death at the age of only 50.

DRUGSJackson sought solace in painkillers; he admitted using Valium, Xanax and Ativan. Around the time of his trial in 2005, Jackson was regularly taking morphine and Demerol, a synthetic drug similar to morphine. There were reports today that Jackson had received an injection of Demerol from his doctor less than an hour before he collapsed. He was apparently under stress, preparing for the London concerts. LUNG AND LIVER PROBLEMSBy 2008, Michael Jackson was in terrible shape and needed a lung transplant, according to Ian Halperin, a British biographer, because he was suffering from a genetic illness called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, which affects the lungs and the liver. Though the claims were rebutted by Dr Tohme Tohme, the singer's spokesman, Halperin said that Jackson had bleeding intestines, was blind in his left eye, and was constantly so winded that he could barely talk. CANCER Jackson was due to start an ambitious series of 50 concerts at the O2 Arena in London this summer. But the first dates of his residency there were cancelled amid concerns about his health. This May, he was said to have had skin cancer tests, which revealed cancerous patches on his neck, and pre-cancerous patches on his face. This was denied by concert promoter, Randy Phillips, who said he was in "fantastic shape". VITILIGOMichael Jackson started his life black, and ended it white. The reason for this was not, as rumours suggested in the 1980s, that he bleached his skin. Instead, as he told Oprah Winfrey and 90 million American viewers in a rare TV interview in 1993, it was down to vitiligo, a disease which destroys pigment cells in the skin and leaves it covered in blotchy white patches. The medicine that Jackson took to combat vitiligo then made his skin even paler.

LUPUS He also suffered from lupus, a potentially fatal condition, although in Jackson's case this was in remission. This meant that he had to avoid over-exposure to sunlight.

BURNSWhile filming a Pepsi advert in 1984, Jackson's hair accidentally caught on fire, and he was hospitalised with second-degree burns. He used an oxygen chamber during his recovery for the disease, and apparently continued to sleep in one afterwards, convinced that it would delay the ageing process.

ANOREXIAWhereas Elvis Presley, the 20th century's other great entertainer, ate too much, Jackson ate too little, and there were suggestions that he suffered from anorexia. A strict vegetarian, he first became alarmingly thin in the early 1980s, when he spoke of wanting to have a "dancer's body". By 1984, his weight had plummeted to as little as 48kg, making him constantly dizzy. After he was first accused of child abuse in 1993, Jackson stopped eating, and became so ill that he could barely remember the names of his albums or the people he had worked with. When he went on trial in 2005, the stress he suffered again led to dangerous weight loss.

MENTAL HEALTHWe know that Jackson's father Joseph treated him terribly and whipped him with a belt during rehearsals with the Jackson 5. Psychologists say that this meant Michael spent his adult life trying to recreate his childhood at the Neverland ranch. As a result, Jackson's mental health was so fragile that one doctor, who spent time with the singer in the run-up to the 2005 child abuse trial, said he was, in effect, a regressed ten-year-old. Other experts have speculated that Jackson suffered from body dysmorphic disorder, a condition which makes the sufferer intensely critical of their perceived physical defects, unaware of what others think of them, secretive and depressed.

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