Glenn Frey died at 67 on Jan. 18. (Photo: Corbis Images)
Glenn Frey, founder of the legendary rock band the Eagles, has died at 67 after battling several health problems.
According to the Eagles website, Frey, who was behind such hits as “Take It Easy” and “The Heat Is On,” “succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia” on Monday (Jan. 18).
Frey’s friend and collaborator Bob Seger told the Detroit Free Press that the singer/songwriter had suffered from colitis, an inflammation of the colon lining, most of his life, but his medical issues became worse recently and he was put into a medically induced coma by his doctors.
“First he caught one set of pneumonia, then he caught a very virulent set of pneumonia,” Seger said. “They were trying like hell to keep him alive. He’d been at Columbia University Medical Center since November. (Eagles manager) Irving (Azoff) pulled every ace out of the hole — he had the eight best specialists working on Glenn. About a month ago, they had to throw up their hands.”
Here’s a breakdown of what Frey suffered from:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: This inflammatory disease manifests itself in the body’s joints, causing pain and swelling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s unknown what causes rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s believed to be caused by a “faulty immune response.” There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, and it affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans over the age of 18.
- Acute Ulcerative Colitis: This is a flare of a chronic inflammatory disease of the large intestine. The disease can cause severe inflammation of the colon, leading to abscesses, perforation, and even death. Marc Leavey, MD, an internist at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center who did not treat Frey, tells Yahoo Health that about 10 percent of people who suffer from ulcerative colitis also have inflammatory arthritis (like rheumatoid arthritis) as well.
- Pneumonia: Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause mild to severe illness in people. According to the CDC, pneumonia is often caused by other infections like the flu or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Morton Tavel, MD, a clinical professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Health that Frey’s individual health problems aren’t typically deadly on their own, but together “could have easily become lethal.”
Leavey points out that there are a variety of treatments for each condition: Several anti-inflammatory and disease-modifying drugs are used for rheumatoid arthritis, a variety of medications and diets are used for ulcerative colitis, and antibiotics and lung treatments are used for pneumonia.
Eric Matteson, MD, a rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, tells Yahoo Health that Frey’s death highlights the severity of rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis.
“The life expectancy of people who have rheumatoid arthritis that is very severe can be diminished, especially if there are complications of the disease outside the joints,” he says. “People with rheumatoid arthritis have a twofold risk of infection.”
Immune-suppressant medication is typically used for ulcerative colitis, which also increases a person’s risk of infection. “People who battle rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis, and for as long as Glenn Frey did, are incredibly courageous,” Matteson says.
While many people recover from pneumonia, Leavey calls the infection “opportunistic” and says it will often occur in people who are suffering form another disease.
The bodily inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis is also a lot for a person to handle. “Together, they can produce more illness than each individually,” Leavey says. “With that as a background, a superimposed bacterial pneumonia, itself a serious illness, may be enough to tip the balance toward the tragic.”
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