Have you sometimes wondered about some of the disease names that appear on the labels of patent medicines. While some of them are familiar, like Heart Disease and Impotency, others really leave you wondering. Take the above Safe Cure label, what the devil are Dropsy, Melancholia, Catarhh and Female Weakness? That’s when you really have to appreciate the internet. There’s actually sites that define archaic disease names. Check out Old Disease Names by Sylvain Cazalet. Here are a few examples of the diseases that used to plague our ancestors in the late 19th Century:
Dropsy: Abnormal swelling of the body or part of the body due to the build-up of clear watery fluid. Edema (swelling), often caused by kidney or heart disease.
Melancholia: Severe Depression
Catarrh: Inflammation of a mucous membrane, especially of the air passages of the head and throat, with a free discharge. It is characterised by cough, thirst, lassitude, fever, watery eyes, and increased secretions of mucus from the air passages. Bronchial catarrh was bronchitis; suffocative catarrh was croup; urethral catarrh was gleet; vaginal catarrh was leukorrhea; epidemic catarrh was the same as influenza.
Bright’s Disease: Chronic inflammatory disease of the kidneys. [NOTE: This was the disease that afflicted H. H. Warner in the late 1870’s and for which he sought relieve from Dr. Craig’s Cure].
Here are a few more that I always wondered about:
Ague: Any intermittent fever characterised by periods of chills, fevers and sweats. Most commonly identified as malaria. Malarial Fever. Malarial or intermittent fever characterised by paroxysms (stages of chills, fever, and sweating at regularly recurring times) and followed by an interval or intermission whose length determines the epithets: quotidian, tertian, quartan, and quintan ague (defined in the text). Popularly, the disease was known as “fever and ague,” “chill fever,” “the shakes,” and by names expressive of the locality in which it was prevalent—such as, “Swamp fever” (in Louisiana), “Panama fever,” and “Chagres fever.”
Consumption: Tuberculosis. A wasting away of the body; formerly applied especially to pulmonary tuberculosis. The disorder is now known to be an infectious disease caused by the bacterial species Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Synonyms: marasmus (in the mid-nineteenth century), phthisis.
Dyspepsia: Indigestion and heartburn. Heart attack symptoms.
Gout: Painful inflammation caused by a build up of uric acid in the tissues.