Japanese empress being treated for apparent stress-related illness

Japan's Empress Michiko is being treated for intestinal bleeding and other ailments apparently caused by stress, a palace official said Tuesday.

Michiko, 72, is suffering from bleeding from the walls of her intestines, nose bleeds and mouth ulcers, according to Yasuo Moriyama, a spokesman of the Imperial Household Agency.

The ailments appear to be stress-induced, and the empress will take breaks from her official duties to recuperate, first for five days in Tokyo later this month and then for another 5 days at an imperial ranch in Takanezawa, north of the capital, Moriyama said.

Michiko was to be accompanied by her husband, Emperor Akihito. The frail empress has not been feeling well since she caught a cold and suffered from a high fever in mid-February, Moriyama said.

The empress has not been hospitalized but is on medication to protect her intestinal membranes, he said.

Michiko has a history of mental stress, becoming unable to speak for months in the early 1990s after suffering a nervous breakdown over unflattering stories in gossip-oriented magazines.

A former commoner, she also reportedly had health problems related to her difficult adjustment to palace life following her marriage in 1959.

In September, she appeared radiant at the arrival of her first grandson, Prince Hisahito. The prince's birth to Michiko's second son, Prince Akishino, defused a looming succession crisis for the royal family, which had produced no male heir in four decades, reports AP.

Michiko's daughter-in-law, Crown Princess Masako, is also recuperating from stress-induced health problems brought on by the pressures of palace life.

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