Medieval Life

Diseases during the Middle Ages

While wounds and injuries were the main reason medieval society sought the services of a doctor, these physicians also treated a variety of ailments and disease.

Rough wool worn close to the skin by peasants led to numerous and widespread skin diseases. Scarcity of fruits, vegetables and proteins needed for a healthy diet led to maladies of the intestinal tract and scurvy.

Winter was especially hard on medieval society, as cold, drafty dwellings led to numerous cases of deadly pneumonia. Even when the weather was warm, improper sanitation made typhoid a constant problem.

Mental illness was also widespread during the Middle Ages. Injuries received to babies during the birthing process often led to brain trauma. Little could be done for these people, but there were no institutions for them and many were accepted into society. Others, however, would have crosses shaved into the backs of their heads, or be tied to pews in the church in hopes that mass would bring them relief.

Leprosy remained the most feared disease of the Middle Ages, until the Black Death, that is. This disease was rampant throughout Western Europe and leper colonies could be found everywhere. In France, alone, there were 2,000 such colonies in the 11th-13th centuries.

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