Francisco Goya's painting: Jose Costa y Bonells (died 1870), Called Pepito
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the US have found that Goya may have suffered from an autoimmune disease called Susac's syndrome at the age of 46.
In this rare condition, a person's immune system attacks small blood vessels in the brain, retina and inner ear. Symptoms can include severe headaches, difficulties in thinking, psychiatric problems, and loss of vision, balance and hearing.
In 1793, Goya developed a severe illness that left him bedridden for months in the middle of his career. He experienced headaches, dizziness, hallucinations, vision problems and ringing in his ears, 'Live Science' reported. Most of these symptoms eventually went away, but the illness left Goya deaf.
The most important Spanish painter of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Goya lived to be 82 years old. His illness went undiagnosed at the the time of his sickness, and since then, experts have speculated that he had bacterial meningitis or syphilis, or had developed lead poisoning from working with paint.
He "had a certain constellation of symptoms" that gave the researchers clues to a possible diagnosis, said Ronna Hertzano, a surgeon and hearing expert at the University of Maryland. Susac's syndrome would "explain all of his symptoms" and can leave patients with lasting hearing loss, Hertzano said. Hertzano said that although syphilis, bacterial meningitis and lead poisoning could all explain Goya's symptoms as well, the people who had those conditions in the 18th century usually did not recover the way that Goya did.