Even the leader of the free world catches cold once in awhile, and sometimes much worse. After 44 presidents, the Oval Office has seen its fair share of odd diseases and incapacitating illnesses.
The severity of Ronald Reagan's <a href=http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/061005_alzheimers_marijuana.html target=new>Alzheimer's Disease</a> finally came to light in the few years before his death in 2004, but some historians speculate the 40th president suffered from <a href=http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/060803_ap_dementia_risk.html target=new>dementia</a> even while in office. As the oldest man to ever win the job, Reagan fought hard to dispel any rumors about his ill health, even after surviving an assassination attempt and colon cancer.
John F. Kennedy
Contrary to the image of youthful vigor he presented publicly, John F. Kennedy spent much of his short life in <a href=http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/060131_pain_truths.html target=new>pain</a> due to various illnesses. Chronic back troubles from a World War II injury and a case of Addison's Diseaseï¿½a chronic insufficiency of the adrenal glandsï¿½left him fatigued and popping pills in private.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
As the last president to lead free from the constant glare of TV scrutiny, FDR was able to hide the gravity of his health from the public until after his death in 1945. Stricken with <a href=http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/060815_bad_shots.html target=new>polio</a>, Roosevelt was barely able to stand on his own while leading the country's fight through World War II. It is believed he chose uncontroversial VP Harry Truman as his running mate in 1944, predicting that he would die before serving out the full term.
The World War I president led the country relatively competently and in good health until he was hit by a <a href=http://www.livescience.com/mysteries/061214_stroke.html target=new>stroke</a> in the latter part of 1919. Virtually incapacitated, Wilson's state was kept hidden from the public and even many government representatives until the end of his term. Historians discovered later that his wife Edith took over many of his menial presidential duties.
William H. Taft
Taft's four years in office were uncomfortable ones, not just because the 27th president was such an awkward politician. Weighing in at over 300 pounds, Taft was dogged by a laundry list of medical conditions about as thick as he was, including a severe case of hypersomnolence that caused him to nod off at all hours of the day even during conversations with other world leaders.
He led for just one term in the late 19th century, but they were probably among the four most <a href=http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/060131_pain_truths.html target=new>painful</a> years any president has ever suffered. Arthur had Bright's Disease, a chronic inflammation of the <a href=http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/061122_dialysis_implants.html target=new>kidneys</a> that often leaves the individual gasping for breath, vomiting, feverish and swollen with retained fluids.
Assassination aside, Abraham Lincoln suffered from his fair share of <a href=http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/top_10_diseases.html target=new>weird ailments</a> during his short tenure as president in the 1860s. Scientists are still debating the exact nature of his afflictions, but agree that the beloved leader was probably born with a <a href=http://www.livescience.com/dna/ target=new>genetic</a> disorder affecting the nervous system, leaving his tissues unable to flex and move like they do in a healthy person. His famously tall and lank stature was a symptom of his disease.
"Old Rough and Ready" wasn't a sickly individual, but the 12th president makes our list due to the <a href=http://www.livescience.com/othernews/top10_unexplained_phenomena.html target=new>mystery</a> surrounding his death. Taylor dropped dead suddenly of acute gastroenteritis after snacking on iced milk and cherries during the Independence Day celebrations of 1850. Some historians, convinced Taylor was poisoned with <a href=http://www.livescience.com/history/050721_king_george.html target=new>arsenic</a> by political rivals, urged the government to exhume his body in 1991 for testing. There was no evidence of foul play.
William Henry Harrison
The 9th president of the United States lasted less than a month in office -the first to die on the job- succumbing to the whimsically named "bilious pleurisy" on April 4, 1841. His inflamed lungs, engorged liver and stumbling <a href=http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/060125_delay_dementia.html target=new>delirious mental state</a> were thought to have originated with a simple jaunt in the rain. He was dead a week later.
By middle age, America's <a href=http://www.livescience.com/mysteries/060830_purple_heart.html target=new>first leader</a> had lost all of his teeth due to infection and was sporting a pair of wooden dentures. But that was the least of his troubles: like many presidents after him, <a href=http://www.livescience.com/history/george_teeth_050126.html target=new>Washington</a> accrued a variety of serious afflictions after taking office, including several abscesses and a life-threatening case of pneumonia.