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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Skin Disease Sheds Light on Marx's Alienation

LONDON -- Karl Marx, who complained of excruciating boils, actually suffered from a chronic skin disease with known psychological effects that may well have influenced his writings, a British expert said this week.

Sam Shuster, professor of dermatology at the University of East Anglia, believes the revolutionary thinker had hidradenitis suppurativa, in which the apocrine sweat glands -- found mainly in the armpits and groin -- become blocked and inflamed.

"In addition to reducing his ability to work, which contributed to his depressing poverty, hidradenitis greatly reduced his self-esteem," said Shuster, who published his findings in the British Journal of Dermatology.

"This explains his self-loathing and alienation, a response reflected by the alienation Marx developed in his writing."

It could also explain a number of Marx's other complaints, not previously linked, such as joint pain and a painful eye condition which often stopped him from working.

Shuster based his diagnosis on an analysis of Marx's extensive correspondence, in which he wrote to friends about his health and described his skin lesions as "curs" and "swine."

"The bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles until their dying day," Marx told Friedrich Engels in a letter from 1867.