The Blindness of Wild Bill

Wild Bill Hickok True West Magazine
Wild Bill Hickok.

In the last years of his life, Wild Bill Hickok had eye problems.  His eyesight was fading, he was sensitive to light, and there was irritation and itching.  It’s not clear just exactly what the problem was.

One theory—Hickok had “ophthalmia,” a general term referring to an inflammation of the eye. Others say the gunfighter had glaucoma. But Hickok expert, the late Joe Rosa, says Wild Bill had trachoma, a communicable disease that is relatively common in areas with poor hygiene.  If he’d lived, it could have blinded Hickok.

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