The death of legendary Eagles founder Glenn Frey is an example of how devastating chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis can be, a top doctor says. It's also possible treatments he was taking for his arthritis were a contributing factor, the band's manager said.
“People think of heart disease and cancer as the most serious diseases, but that is because these diseases are more common. But any of the inflammatory diseases – and that includes rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis – are also very, very serious diseases, especially if you have one on top of the other,” Marc Leavey M.D. tells Newsmax Health
Frey died Monday at the age of 67. His death was attributed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis, as well as pneumonia, according to the band’s website. But accounts of which ailment came first differed today.
Bob Seger, Frey's longtime friend and collaborator, told the Detroit Free Press
that he suffered from ulcerative colitis most of his life. But Frey's manager, Irving Azoff, told The Wrap
he believes the drugs the musician was taking for rheumatoid arthritis contributed to the ulcerative colitis and also ultimately to the pneumonia that killed him.
Ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis are both autoimmune diseases, which are caused by an abnormal response of the body’s immune system, the cells and proteins that protect us from infection. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system reacts abnormally, which results in damage to the body.
About 1.3 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis, which is an inflammatory, disabling disease. It strikes three times as many women as men, possibly because of hormonal factors.
Although it attacks the synovial tissues around the joints, the disease can affect other vital organs, such as the heart and lungs, and people with it are at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and respiratory problems.
Ulcerative colitis, which affects about 700,000 Americans, is a disease of the large intestine, also known as the colon. In this disease, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria and other materials in the intestine for foreign or invading substances. When this happens, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines, where they produce chronic inflammation and ulcerations, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.
Both diseases are treated with very strong drugs, including corticosteroids and newer, immunosuppressive medications. Both types of medication suppress the immune system and may lead to infections, including pneumonia, notes Dr. Leavey.
“These are very serious diseases, and the drugs that treat them are also very, very serious,” he noted.
Frey had kept his disease largely out of the public eye, which also might account for the differing accounts of his illness, notes Dr. Leavey.
“There does seem to be a mystery surrounding Glenn Frye’s death, as there was with David Bowie’s, probably because both men didn’t talk about their diseases but preferred to keep the details private,” says Dr. Leavey.
The Eagles cancelled the band's upcoming fall tour and Frey was also absent when the band was honored at the Kennedy Center last month.
Frey was only said to be facing intestinal surgery, but during that time, a behind-the-scenes fight for the musician’s life was being waged, which culminated in his death, Seger told the Detroit paper.
Bowie died earlier this month of cancer, but the form of the disease has not been disclosed.
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