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King Charles' health over the years: Cancer, Covid and injuries

The King has suffered a great many sporting ailments during his 75 years, as well as several crucial operations  

King Charles wearing brown coat to church
Melanie Macleod
Melanie MacleodWellness Editor
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Shockwaves were sent around the world when Buckingham Palace announced that King Charles has been diagnosed with cancer, following his operation to treat an enlarged prostate.

The King has been praised for being open about his health, with his candid approach hopefully encouraging others to attend health screenings.

Testament to his strength, the Palace's statement read that the King will continue to undertake State business and official paperwork as usual.

King diagnosed with unspecified cancer – what is known so far

With King Charles in our thoughts, we revisited his health history over the years, including Covid, polo injuries and more…

Double Covid diagnosis

King Charles worried the nation in March 2020, when he caught Covid before having any vaccinations.

King Charles smiles in a suit© Getty
Charles had Covid twice

He isolated at Birkhall, Aberdeenshire, away from Queen Camilla, who tested negative, and in the same way he's keeping up with his paperwork during his cancer treatment, King Charles continued to work at his desk when he had Covid.

REVEALED: How Prince Harry found out about King Charles' cancer diagnosis

The royal lost his sense of taste and smell but was otherwise well. He also caught Covid for a second time in February 2022, when he was triple-vaccinated.

Polo mishaps

An avid polo player, King Charles suffered several injuries at the hooves of horses, including one distressing incident which left him with back pain for life.

King Charles playing polo in 1990© Getty
King Charles suffered several polo accidents

The accident, which distressed a young Prince Harry, took place in August 2001. King Charles was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital when his horse threw him off during a polo match.

He was stretchered off and taken by ambulance to hospital as a precautionary measure, and the Duke of Sussex wrote in Spare that his father would hang upside down at home to ease the pain that he was left in.

King Charles playing polo in 2003© Getty Images
King Charles playing polo in 2003

His 2001 ordeal was far from King Charles' first polo run-in, though.

In 1980 he was thrown and kicked by his pony during a polo match at Windsor and needed six stitches. A two-inch crescent scar on his left cheek bore witness to the incident.

READ: 13 dramatic horse injuries: King Charles, Sophie Wessex and more royal broken bones 

1980 transpired to be an unlucky polo year for the then Prince, who collapsed at the end of a game in Florida and had to be put on a saline drip.

On another occasion he was hit in the throat during the game, causing him to lose his voice for 10 days.

In 1990, the royal broke his right arm in a fall during a polo match, then two years later he had an operation to repair torn cartilage in his left knee following another polo mishap.

King Charles playing polo on horseback in Deauville France
King Charles loved polo - despite the injuries

In 1993 he was hurt once again during a game at Windsor, aggravating an old back injury.

He sought treatment again in 1998, undergoing laser keyhole surgery on his right knee cartilage due to wear and tear from years of sport and exercise.

He eventually retired from the game in 2005, but it wasn't just polo that saw him injured.

READ: Queen Camilla will be at Charles' side 'every step of the way' during cancer treatment 

King Charles' sporting injuries

The royal sustained injuries during hunts, breaking a rib when he tumbled from his horse in a hunting accident in 1998 and fracturing a small bone in his shoulder after falling off his horse during a fox hunt.

King Charles also strained tendons in his wrist while salmon fishing in Scotland.

REVEALED: King Charles' three-hour surgery at 42 that was kept a secret 

King Charles' swollen fingers

Over the years King Charles' swollen fingers have caused concern among royal watchers, and while the royal has joked about them, he's never addressed the cause.

His Majesty's swollen fingers could be for a number of reasons, from temporary fluid retention due to a sudden change in temperature to arthritis. Other causes of a "sausage" like finger can be high blood pressure, or even having a diet that is high in salt.

charles swollen fingers© Photo: Getty Images
King Charles' fingers often look swollen

The symptom of "sausage fingers" is actually linked to Dactylitis, a secondary disease that can be caused by a number of conditions and infections, most commonly psoriatic arthritis.

Many royal fans may be questioning whether his fingers are any indication of his recent cancer diagnosis, which Charles announced in February 2023. Buckingham Palace confirmed that doctors noted a "separate issue of concern" when the King had gone into hospital for treatment for an enlarged prostate in January. Although the specific kind of cancer has not been revealed, Buckingham Palace confirmed that it wasn't prostate cancer.

Finger clubbing can be a symptom of lung cancer, while cancer treatment can cause lymphedema which is swelling in the arms, hands or legs. Charles has started "a schedule of regular treatments" but it's unlikely his fingers are a result of his recent cancer diagnosis or treatment since they predate the health matter by several years. 

Why does King Charles III have swollen fingers? 

King Charles' sore eye

In 2001, King Charles was seen sporting an eye patch for several public engagements after he got a large amount of dust in his eye while sawing a tree in his garden.

charles eye patch© Photo: Getty Images
King Charles wore an eye patch following a gardening accident

Following the gardening mishap, the then 52-year-old had to undergo hospital treatment, which resulted in his pirate-like protection.

He also fell foul of his garden back in 1986, accidentally hitting his thumb with a mallet and breaking his finger, almost severing the tip.

"He was gardening, planting a tree," a palace spokesperson said at the time. "He was putting a stake in the ground when the hammer slipped and hit his finger."

RELATED: 5 memorable royal skiing accidents: Sophie Wessex, Princess Diana and more 

Growth-removal and hernia issues

In 2008 King Charles had a non-cancerous growth removed from the bridge of his nose in a minor procedure, while in 2003 had a hernia operation at the private King Edward VII’s Hospital in London.

King Charles and Queen Camilla arriving for the morning service at St Mary Magdalene Church© Geoff Robinson
King Charles has had several surgeries

He joked, "hernia today, gone tomorrow," to waiting media after being discharged the next day.

DISCOVER: What will happen if King Charles abdicates the throne? 

Appendix removal

King Charles' health run-ins began young, when as a child he was rushed to Great Ormond Street Hospital to stop his appendix from "exploding" as he put it.

Charles’s appendix procedure took place in February 1962 when he was 13.

READ: Prince William expected to shoulder more responsibility and cover King's duties after Charles' cancer news

He declared on a later visit to the hospital: "I got here just in time before the thing exploded and was happily operated on and looked after by the nurses."

We hope the king is being equally well looked after during his current treatment.

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