Old Time Medical Terms

Caput Mortuum drug jar, 
Delftware, made in Holland,
1940-1968 by Oud Delft 

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Old medical terms, medicines, and some folk terms too! ~ from mortality schedules, court records, old letters, military records, and other nineteenth and early twentieth century documents.
This list does pretend to be complete, nor does the compiler pretend to be a medical authority. Please do NOT use this list to diagnose yourself. If you have a medical problem, get professional help! Some of these terms are still in use today. Others have completely disappeared from normal use. Spelling variations are common.

      Hysterical inability to walk or stand.

  Abdominal typhus:       
      A typhus fever noted by bluish spots on the abdomen.


  Abscess of Liver:
      Most often fatal infection of the liver. It is seen as a 
      complication of dysentery. 
  Abscessus, Abscess: 
      A suppurative collection anywhere in the body. In other words, 
      an area like a wound, filled with pus.

      Eruption on the scalp.

  Acuta, Acute:
      A short, severe illness.

  Addison's Disease: 
      An anemic condition caused by kidney disease.

      Burned or parched, usually meaning dehydration caused by fever.

      Illness, sickness.

      Inability to swallow. 

      A sharp fever, most usually malaria. Chills and fever, heavy 
      sweating. Also called "aksis."
      See Malaria.

  Air swellings:
      Gas swelled abdomen, bloated intestines.

      A burn or scald.

  American Plague:
      Yellow Fever Anasarca
      Generalized massive edema, or swelling in issues resulting from
      the accumulation of fluid.

  Anchylosis, ankylosis:
      The joining together of bones or hard parts, also the resulting 

      Means "a weak old woman". Also applied to senility due to old age.

      The loss of voice, from many possible causes. This condition could 
      be temporary or permanent. Edgar Cayce, the Kentucky Physic, had 
      this condition as a young man.

      A seizure caused by a cerebrovascular accident.  A stroke, as if 
      struck by the gods. A sudden paralysis.
      A fluid filled abdomen. Alcoholic liver disease is the most 
      common cause.

  Bad Blood:

  Barrel fever: 
      Sickness produced by immoderate drinking.


      belladon'na, (I.) ("beautiful lady') in the Pharmacopoeia of the United 
      States, is the officinal* name of the leaves of Atrop Belladonna.
      (Quote, "Medical Lexicon: A Dictionary of Medical Science..." by 
      Robley Dunglison, Richard James Dunglison, 1873, p. 121)
  Bible Blister:
      A cyst or ganglia usually at the wrist. This cyst would be full 
      of fluid. Grandpa would take the family Bible, with its big rigid 
      back, have you put your hand on the table, give the cyst a hardy 
      thump --- end of cyst!

      A liquid secreted from the liver. It helps absorb and digest fat.

      Usually a excessive secretion of bile.

  Bilious Colic:
      An excessive amount of bile in the system with pain in the bowels.

  Bilious fever:          
      An excessive amount of bile in the system with a fever. Typhoid 
      was occasionally called "bilious fever" in eighteenth century 
      Europe, and yellow fever was called "autumnal bilious fever" in
      1668 New York.

      Also see as bilious pneumonia; bilious remittent fever; bilious 
      typhoid fever; occasionally seen misspelled as billows fever; 
      bellows fever.

  Black Death:
      Bubonic plague. It is carried by fleas that live on vermin. 1347 
      to 1351, it killed a quarter of the population of Europe.

  Black lung:
      Disease from breathing coal dust.

  Black Pox:
      Black small pox. 

  Black vomit:
      Yellow fever.

  Black-water fever:
      Malaria in which the urine turns dark blue or black.

  Bleed, Bleeding, Bloodletting:
      To draw blood, so as to remove "bad blood."

  Bloody flux:

  blue mass
      A medicine prescribed, made, and sold in the United States in the 1800s. 
      It was used as "a remedy for such widely varied complaints as tuberculosis, 
      constipation, toothache, parasitic infestations, and the pains of childbirth. 
      It was a magistral preparation, compounded by pharmacists themselves based 
      on their own recipes or on one of several widespread recipes." 
      (Quote, Wikipedia)

      Blue mass recipes varied with mercury being one of the major ingredients. 
      It could also contain licorice, Althaea, glycerol, rose honey, blue chalk,

  Bloody sweat:
      A sweat accompanied by a discharge of blood.

  Breakbone fever, dengue fever: 
      So named "breakbone fever" by Dr. Benjamin Rush when the 
      disease swept over Philadelphia in 1780. See "Dengue, dengue

  Brills disease:        

  Bloody flux:
      A flow of relatively fresh blood, usually from the bowels, 
      often accompanied by diarrhea. 

  Bold Hives:
      Chicken Pox.

  Bone Shave:

  Brain fever:
      Meningitis or encephalitis.

  Bright's Disease:
      Nephritis, kidney complaint, sclerosis of the kidney. Causes 
      cerebral hemorrhage, loss of sight, hard pulse,  
      edema, bronchitus, high blood pressure.

      Usually a cystic goiter, or an enlargement of the goiter, 
      could be caused by an iodine deficiency in the diet.

  Bronze John:
      Yellow fever.

      Mercury(I) chloride, aka, mercurous chloride. Calomel was taken internally 
      and used as a laxative and disinfectant before the 20th century. It had 
      widespread usage during the Civil War and cause lifetime medical problems
      for the soldiers.

  Camp fever:

  Camp Itch:
      A condition commonly found among soldiers caused by a filthy camp
      environment, lack of bathing, and assorted parasites. A well 
      know malady during the Civil War.

  Canine Madness: 
      Rabies, a.k.a., hydrophobia. 

      An ulcerous sore of the mouth and lips. Herpes simplex. 

  Caput Mortuum: 
      A Latin term meaning 'death's head'. In alchemy, Caput Mortuum signified a 
      useless substance left over from a chemical operation such as sublimation; 
      alchemists represented this residue with a stylized human skull, a literal 
      death's head. 
      Caput Mortuum is a pigment used in oil painting, etc. and is closely related
      to mummy, a pigment and 'medicine' made from powdered mummies. (See mummy 

      A large boil, or a skin cancer or other tumour.

  Carditis (myocarditis): 
      Inflammation of the heart wall.

      Seizures or trances
  Catarrh (catarrhal bronchitis):
      Inflammatory affection of a mucous membrane, especially the 
      nose and air passages.

  Catarrhal fever:
      The term for the group of respiratory tract diseases including 
      the common cold, influenza, and lobular and lobar pneumonia. 


      Inflammation of cerebrum or lead poisoning

  Cerebrospinal Meningitis:
      Meningitis, inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal 
      cord. Caused by various viruses and bacteria. Babies and young 
      children are especially susceptible.


  Chicken pox, chickenpox, /varicella-zoster/ virus (VZV):
     This virual infection causes "dew drop on a rose petal" lesions,
     which typically occur first on the face and trunk. Children between
     5 and 9 years of age are most commonly affected. The most common
     infectious complication is secondary bacterial superinfection by 
     Strep pyogenes or Staph aureus. Shingles may occur many years later
     caused when the dormant /varicella-zoster/ virus becomes re-activated.

  Child Bed Fever:        
      Usually, Puerperal Sepsis. A disease of women in labor.
      Often caused by the unwashed hands of the untrained midwife
      or unclean conditions. Child Bed Fever is a killer.

  Chilblain, chilblains:
      Inflammation of the hands and feet caused by exposure to cold
      and moisture. It is also called "pernio."  

     When given as a cause of death, malaria or pneumonia.
  Chin Cough:
      Whooping Cough.

      Iron deficiency anemia.

      Gall stones. 
      An acute, infectious disease characterized by profuse diarrhea,
      vomiting, and cramps. Cholera is spread by feces-contaminated 
      water and food. Major epidemics struck the United States in the 
      years 1832, 1849, and 1866. The last major epidemic in the U.S. 
      east was 1866.

  Cholera cot:
      Not a disease, but simply a cot with hole cut in the middle.
      A bucket would be placed under the cot. The colera patient
      is placed on the cot.
  Cholera infantum: 
      A common, noncontagious diarrhea of young children, occurring 
      in summer or autumn. Common among the poor and in hand-fed 
      babies. Death frequently occurred in three to five days. 
      Synonyms: summer complaint, weaning brash, water gripes, choleric
      fever of children, cholera morbus.

  Chorea (St. Vitus' Dance, etc.): 
      A generic term used to identify any nervous disorder.   

      Having long duration. 


     Pural of Colon.

  Cold plague: 
     Ague, characterized by chills. 

     Abdominal pain and cramping. A common condition effecting 10% of

      A state of profound unconsciousness.

      A hard blow to the head causing cerebral malfunction.

      Existing at the time of birth.

      Congestive heart failure: Spanish, insuficiencia cardíaca congestiva.

  Congestion of the Brain: 
      This may be a term that covers more than one disease. 
      Edgar Allan Poe died of "Congestion of the Brain," 1849 in Baltimore 
      Maryland. It is said he was found drunk and had a brain lesion 

      "Helen Keller was born a healthy child. When Helen was 19 months old, 
      she became ill with what was known as acute congestion of the brain 
      and stomach; this is now known as scarlet fever." 

  Congestive Chill:       
      Cold, shivering, can lead to pneumonia. 

  Congestive Fever:

  Conjunctivitis, a.k.a., red eye, pink eye:
      Conjunctivitis is caused by the introduction of either bacterial
      or viral microorganisms into the eye.



  Consumption (phthisis pulmonalia, pulmonary tuberculosis): 
      Tuberculosis. The term "Consumption" was commonly used in 
      the days when there was no effective treatment of the disease. 
      Here the body was consumed or gradually wasted away. 

  Contagious Pyrexia:


     Continues, continuing.


      A cold. See catarrh.


  Cramp Colic:

     Mental retardation due to congenitally under-active thyroid.

  Crop Sickness:
     Overextended stomach from over eating. Perhaps reflux oesophagitis?

     An obstructive condition of the larynx (voice box) or trachea 
     (windpipe), characterized by a hoarse, barking cough and difficult
     breathing occurring chiefly in infants and children. In the early
     nineteenth century it was called cynanche trachealis. 
     Synonyms: roup, hives, choak, stuffing, rising of the lights.

  Crusted Tetter:

  Curse (The):

     Dark skin color from lack of oxygen in blood. 

     Diseases of throat. 

     Inflammation of the bladder. 

  Danbury Shakes:
     See: Mad Hatter's disease.

  Day Fever:
     A fever lasting one day, sweating sickness. 

  Debility, Debilitas: 
     Abnormal bodily weakness or feebleness; decay of strength. May
     be applied to weakness of body, or feebleness of the mind, i.e., 

     Feebleness due to old age. 

  Delerium Tremens:
     Hallucinations due to alcoholism. 

     Dementia is loss of intellectual abilities such as memory 
     capacity, severe enough to interfere with social or occupational

  Dengue, dengue fever: 
     Infectious fever, endemic to East Africa, the Americas, and 
     South-east Asia. It is a mosquito-carried disease that would 
     overwhelm humans, causing headaches, eye pain, and a swelling
     achiness of the joints. By the 1940s, this disease was controled 
     by earlier mosquito eradication programs to eliminate yellow fever
     carrying mosquitos. (See: "Breakbone fever")

  Dengue hemorrhagic fever (dengue-2):
     A new mosquito-carried disease related to to older dengue fever. It 
     first ocurred in Manila, 1953, then in Bangkok, 1958, and Havana, 1981.
     By 1987, it was reported in seventeen U.S. states.

     Cutting of teeth in babies.

      Diarrhea is usually defined as frequent and-or loose stools. It
      can be either acute or chronic.
  Diarrhea / Lax:
      A gastro-intestinal disease.

  Diary fever: 
      A short term fever, usually of a one day duration.

      An acute infectious disease acquired by contact with an infected
      person or a carrier of the disease. It was usually confined to the
      upper respiratory tract (throat) and characterized by the formation
      of a tough membrane (false membrane) attached firmly to the underlying
      tissue that would bleed if forcibly removed. 

      Usually animal disease with malaise, discharge from nose 
      and throat, anorexia. 

  Dock fever:
     Yellow fever. 

  Dropsy (a contraction for hydropsy):
      Disease causing fluids in the serous cavities. Referred to
      a swelling, whether general or localized. The presence of 
      abnormally large amounts of fluid. Congestive heart failure.

  Dropsy of the brain:

  Dry bellyache: 
      Abdominal pain due to lead poisoning from lead containing medicines.

  Dry gangrene:
      The death of tissue due to vascular insufficiency without bacterial
      invasion. The tissue just dries up and shrivels.

      An abnormal body condition. 

      Infectious disease marked by inflammation and ulceration
      of the lower part of the bowels and diarrhea.

      Reduced appetite.

      Deranged or impaired digestion - indigestion. (May be a 
      symptom of a heart attack). 

      Difficulty in urination.

  Eating ulcer:
      Peptic ulcer, pain occurs soon after eating.

     A form of leprosy.

      Swelling of brain; a.k.a., sleeping sickness. 

  Entero Colitis:
      Inflammation of the small intestine and colon.

      Inflammation of the intestines, or could also take the 
      form of enteric fever (typhoid).

      Inflammation of the intestines. 

      Inflammation of the bowels. 

  Epilepsy: A disorder of the nervous system, characterized either by 
      mild, episodic loss of attention or sleepiness (petittnal) or by severe
      convulsions with loss of consciousness (grand mal - epileptic spasms).

     Nose bleed. 

  Ersipelas, Erysipelas, Erysipelas:
      Acute infectious disease - recognized by a deep reddening
      of the skin. A disease of the skin, with general fever,
      tension, and swelling of the part.

  Falling sickness:

  Fatty Liver: 
      Cirrhosis of the liver.

  Febers, febirs:

  Typhoid febirs:
      Typhoid fever.

      Sudden attack or seizure of muscle activity. 

      Dysentery. An excessive flow or discharge from the bowels,
      i.e., hemorrhage or diarrhea.

  French pox:

  Galloping Consumption:
      Pulmonary Tuberculosis.

  Gangrene, mormal:
      The death of body tissue due to the loss of blood supply to that
      tissue, sometimes permitting bacteria to invade it and accelerate
      its decay. 

      Inflammation of the small intestine.

      A common protozoal infection of the small intestine spread via 
      contaminated food and water and direct person-to-person contact.

  Glandular Fever:

      A sexually transmitted disease; inflammation of genital mucous 
      membranes caused by the bacteria /gonococcus/.

  Goiter, /struma/: 
      A noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid gland, visible as a 
      swelling at the front of the neck, that is often associated 
      with iodine deficiency.

      A disturbance of uric-acid metabolism occurring predominantly in 
      males, characterized by painful inflammation of the joints, 
      especially of the feet and hands.

      Granular/sand-like material forming the substance of the
      urinary calculi and passed in the urine.

  Grave's Disease: 
      A disorder of the thyroid gland. 

  Great white plague:

  Green Sickness:
      Chlorosis, an iron-deficiency anemia especially of adolescent 
      girls that may impart a greenish tint to the skin.

  Gripe, Grippe, Grip, La Grippe:

  Grocer's itch:
      Skin disease caused by mites in sugar or flour. 

  Grog Blossoms:
      Pimples on the nose in acne rosacea.

  Hatter's disease:
      See Mad Hatter's Disease.

      Vomiting blood.

      Blood in the urine.

      Spitting up of blood

  Herpes, Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1)
      A virus that can cause painful "cold sores" or blisters on the lips 
      ("fever blisters") or in the mouth or around the eyes. The symptomatic
      disease stage occurs at unpredictable intervals of weeks, months or 
      years. The latent (inactive) virus can reactivate due to emotional 
      stress, physical trauma, other infections, or suppression of the immune
      system. HSV-1 responds well to treatment with acyclovir.
      (Source: National AIDS Treatment Activist Forum)

  Hookworm disease:
      The hookworm is a parasitic nematode worm (Necator americanus or American 
      Murderer) that lives in the small intestine of its host. Hookworms spread
      by fecal contamination of the environment (soil). Hookworm became epidemic
      during the Civil War especially in the Southern armies where there was a 
      serious shortage of shoes and many of the soldiers went barefoot. Being 
      barefoot, they easily fell victim to hookworm infection.

      Delirium tremens. An acute episode of delirium (accute shaking) that is 
      usually caused by withdrawal or abstinence from alcohol following habitual 
      excessive drinking. Can be fatal.

  Humors (also seen as "Constitutional Humors" on old medicine bottle labels):
      A theory of workings of the human body believed well into the nineteenth 
      century by many physicians wordwide.
      From Wikipedia:
      "The theory held that the human body was filled with four basic substances, 
      called four humours, or humors, which are in balance when a person is healthy. 
      All diseases and disabilities resulted from an excess or deficit of one of 
      these four humors. The four humors were identified as black bile, yellow bile, 
      phlegm, and blood."

      Fluid around the heart, also called epricardial dropsy.

      Abnormal collection of brain fluid, also called dropsy.

  Hyperthrophy of heart:
      Enlargement of the heart.

      Jaundice. The symptoms are a yellowing of eyes and skin.
      (In Greek, ikteros means both jaundice and "yellow bird.")
      See: Yellow jaundice.

      A human being destitute of the ordinary intellectual powers, 
      whether congenital, developmental, or accidental; commonly, 
      a person without understanding from birth; a natural fool; 
      a natural; an innocent.
      (Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary - 1913) 

      Intestinal obstruction due to paralysis of the gut. 
      Also called intestinal Colic.

      A condition wherein the patient has been depleted by the
      lack of nourishment. Most commonly found in reference to
      infants and the elderly. It signified death from the 
      inability to assimilate food, usually caused by illness, 
      or, in the case of infants, premature birth. 


  Infantile Paralysis:

  Influenza Pandemic of 1918. 
      Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe." A world wide disaster.

  Information of . . .: 
      . . . an inflamation.

      Addicted to an excessive or habitual use of alcoholic liquors.

      Reoccurring. A stop and go action. As with an intermittent 
      fever that rises and falls, only to rises again.

  Intestinal colic:
      Pain throughout the abdomen, caused often by improper diet.

  Intestinal structure:   
      Tightening due to pressure or changes in intestinal walls.

  Intero Sas Ception, Interssusception:
      Part of the intestine has slipped into the area below it 
      like a telescope.

  In viva, in vivus:
      At birth - sometimes to note a child who has died at birth.

  Jail Fever:
      Typhus Jaundice, a condition caused by blockage of intestines .

  Jaundice, Janders:
      Eyes or skin become yellowed from bile in the blood.

  King's evil:
      Tuberculosis of neck and lymph glands.

  La Grippe: 
       Influenza or flu. 

       A looseness; diarrhea.

  Lead palsy:
      Muscle paralysis due to abnormal amount of lead in the

  Leech, /hirudo medicinalis/, a.k.a., medicinal leech:
      The leech is a fresh water amphibious parasite. Adults feed on the
      blood of mammals. It attaches to the host by means of its two suckers
      and bites through the skin of its victim. Simultaneously, the leech 
      injects an anaesthetic so that its presence is not detected, and an 
      anticoagulant in order for the incision to remain open during
      the meal. The leech has historically been used for medicinal 
      purposes, mainly to remove "bad blood" from the patient.
      Around 1850 this practice fell into disrepute. Today this species 
      is used to relieve pressure and restore circulation in tissue 
      grafts where blood accumulation is likely such as severed fingers
      and ears.
      (Source: Kathy Silverstein)
  Liver Complaint: 
      Cirrhosis of the liver.

  Lock Jaw:

  Long sickness:


      A rheumatic pain in the loins and the small of the back.

      Did not necessarily mean insane: also referred to senility
      or those with some affliction from birth.

 Lung fever, lung sckness:
      Pneumonia, tuberculosis.

  Lying in: 
      Time of delivery of a baby.

  Mad Hatter's disease:
      Erythism. Mercury poisoning, causing a plethora of physical and 
      psychiatric complaints. The term "Mad Hatter" is from the
      character in Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland." The character
      was based on the English felt and hat makers who used mercury in 
      processing the beaver fur and thereby going insane because of it.
      In Danbury CT, the hat makers got the "Danbury Shakes." 

      Malaria is both an acute and chronic disease caused by protozoa
      of the genus /Plasmodium/. The protozoa are transmitted to 
      humans by female mosquitoes of the genus /Anopheles/. Any area
      harboring Anopheles mosquitoes may be at risk for malaria
      transmission. Malaria transmission occurs in more than 100 
      countries. Regions include Africa, Asia, islands of the South,
      west, and central Pacific Ocean, Latin America, certain
      Caribbean islands, and Turkey.
      (Source: Navy Environmental Health Center)

      Malaria existed in parts of the United States from colonial times 
      to the 1940s. One of the first military expenditures of the 
      Continental Congress, around 1775, was for $300 to buy quinine 
      to protect General Washington's troops. In the summer of 1828 "swamp
      fever" broke out in the settlement of Bytown (Ottawa) and along the 
      construction route of the Rideau Canal. According to some accounts,
      the "malaria" was not native to North America but had been 
      introduced by infected British soldiers who had returned from 
      India. Numerous deaths had occurred by the time the epidemic 
      subsided in September when the mosquitoes disappeared. During the
      American Civil War (1861-65), one half of the white troops and 
      80% of the black soldiers of the Union Army got malaria annually. 
      More than an estimated 600,000 cases of malaria occurred in the U.S.
      in 1914, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and
      Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. 
      (Source: The History of Malaria, Robert S. Desowitz)

  Malarial Fever:
      Malarial or intermittent fever characterized by stages of chills,
      fever, and sweating at regularly recurring times, followed by an
      interval or intermission whose length determines the epithets: 
      quotidian, tertian, quartan, and quintan ague.
      The disease was known as "fever and ague," "chill fever," 
      "the shakes," and by names specific to the locality in which it was
      prevalent, such as, "swamp fever" (in Louisiana), "Panama fever," 
      and "Chagres fever." 


      Progressive emaciation. In infants, it was associated with
      feeding problems.
      Probably a mis-spelling of measles.

  Membranous croup:
      A hoarse, ringing cough, it could be fatal if the membrane
      blocked the trachea. 


      Inflammation of uterus or purulent vaginal discharge. 

      Poisonous vapors believed to infect the air.

  Milk leg:
      Postpartum thrombophlebitis.

  Milk Sickness, Milksick, Milk sick:
      Milksick is not actually a disease, but a form of poisoning.
      Cows ingest the leaves of the white snakeroot plant and pass
      along its toxin in their milk. A Milksick Hollow appears in
      both Franklin and Grundy Counties Tennessee. A Milk Sick 
      Mountain appears in White County Tennessee. Milk sickness is
      often fatal.

      Latin word for disease. 

  Morbis Cutis:
      Heart disease.

       Powdered remains of a mummy, preferably an Egyptan mummy. Used as 
       medicine and as a color in artists' oil paint.

       "Mum'my, Mu'mia, (Arab. Moumya, from mum, 'wax,') Rebolea, 
       Rebona, Sceleteu'ma, (F,) Momie.
       A dead body simply dried, or dried after having been embalmed. The 
       latter acceptation is the most common. Formerly, the Egyptian mummy 
       was extolled as useful in contusions. It was presumed, also, to have 
       healing, tonic, and resolvent properties. It is now only regarded as 
       an archaical curiosity."
       Source: "Medical Lexicon: A Dictionary of Medical Science..." by 
       Robley Dunglison, Richard James Dunglison, 1873, p. 673

  Mumps, /myxo virus/:
      Mumps is an infectious disease which causes enlargement of the two 
      salivary glands in the cheeks at the angle of the jaw. It may also
      cause inflammation of the pancreas and also, inflammation of the 
      central nervous system i.e. meningitis, encephalitis or myelitis. 

      Inflammation of the spine. 

      See: Carditits.

      Mortification of bones or tissue. 

      Inflammation of the kidneys.

  Nervous Fever:
      A low form of fever characterized by great disturbance of the 
      nervous system, as evinced by delirium, or stupor, disordered 
      sensibility, etc.

  Nervous prostration:
      Extreme exhaustion caused from the inability to control 
      physical and mental activities.

      Sharp, severe paroxysmal pain extending along a nerve or group of nerves.

      A neurotic condition characterized by worry, disturbances
      of digestion and circulation and attributed to emotional 
      conflict and feelings of inferiority. 

      Death or dead. 

      Eye disease.

      Ear pain.

      Paralysis or loss of muscle control.

        A plant or organism that lives on or in the host, deriving nourishment
        from it. Some cause inflammation, but others cause infection and
        destroy tissue. Human parasites include fungi, yeast, bacteria,
        protozoa, worms and viruses.
        (Source: National AIDS Treatment Activist Forum)

        Abnormal sensations: numbness, burning, tingling.

        A most common infection of the hand. It is a superficial infection
        of epithelium lateral to the nail plate. An untreated infection 
        can spread to the deep spaces of the hand and beyond.

        Inflammation or swelling of the parotid gland. Mumps.
       Labor or the process of childbirth.

       "A loathsome skin disease, it was called mal de la rosa and often mistaken 
       for leprosy. Although it was not conclusively identified in the United 
       States until 1907, there are reports of illness that could be pellagra as 
       far back as the 1820s. In the United States, pellagra has often been called 
       the disease of the four D's -- dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, and death."
       (Source: Office of NIH History)
       " The traditional food preparation method of corn, nixtamalization, by 
       native New World cultivators, who had domesticated corn, required 
       treatment of the grain with lime, an alkali. It has now been shown that 
       the lime treatment makes niacin nutritionally available and reduces the 
       chance of developing pellagra. When corn cultivation was adopted 
       worldwide, this preparation method was not accepted because the benefit 
       was not understood. The original cultivators, often heavily dependent on 
       corn, did not suffer from pellagra. Pellagra became common only when 
       corn became a staple that was eaten without the traditional treatment.
       "In the early 1900s, pellagra reached epidemic proportions in the 
       American South."
       (Source: Wikipedia)

  Perricarde (as seen in Mortality Schedules) a.k.a pericardial effusion. Water 
       around the heart, an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the pericardial 

  Phlegmon, Pancreatic Phlegmon:
       Complication of Acute Pancreatitis.

      Chronic wasting away, tuberculosis. Blakiston:  "1) Old term
      for tuberculosis.  2) Old term for any disease characterized
      by emaciation and loss of strength, especially diseases of 
      the lungs."

      Tuberculosis, consumption. A chronic wasting.

  Phitisis Pulmonalis:
      Pulmonary Tuberculosis.

  Phossy jaw:
      Destruction of the jawbone by phosphorus poisoning.
      Seen in workers in match factories.

      A pseudo-science of the 19th century, created by L. N. Fowler

      Lice infestation.

      Dealing with the lungs.

  Piles, Hemorrhoids:
       Piles are swollen but normally present blood vessels in and around
       the anus and lower rectum that stretch under pressure, similar to
       varicose veins in the legs. Contributing factors include pregnancy,
       aging, and chronic constipation or diarrhoea.

  Pink Disease:
      Disease of teething infants due to mercury poisoning from 
      teething powders

  Plague, Black Death: 
      Bubonic Plague.

      Inflammation of the lung, accompanied by chest pain.

  Pneumonia, Neumonia:
      Inflammation of the lungs. A major killer.



  Potter's asthma:
      Fibroid pthisis.

  Pott's Disease: 
      Degeneration of the vertebrae, often resulting in curvature
      of the spine. 


  Puerperal exhaustion:
      Death from childbirth. 

  Puerperal fever:
      Septic poisoning occurring sometimes during childbirth.

  Puking fever:
      Milk sickness. 

       Pulmonary Artery (A. Pulmonalis). We often see as a cause of 
       death, "Phthisis Pulmonalis."

     Livid spots on the skin from extravasated blood, with languor
     or loss of muscular strength, and pain in the limbs.

  Putrid fever:
      Diptheria or typhus.

  Putrid sore throat:
      Ulceration of an acute form, attacking the tonsils.

      A period of isolation. Originally for forty days.
  Quick with child:
      Pregnancy, from about the forth or fifth month, when the mother
      can feel the fetus kick.

  Quinsy, Quinzy: 
      A "peritonsillar abscess," or an abscess behind the tonsil.
      Can be fatal.

  Quotidian, Quotidianna, Quotidianae: 
      A daily occurrence.

  Remitting, Remitten, Remitting fever:

      Various disorders associated with pain in the joints. 

      Disease of the skeletal system resulting from a deficiency of calcium
      or vitamin D in the diet, or from lack of sunlight.

  Rose cold:
      Hay fever or nasal symptoms of an allergy. 

  Rose rash: 
      Acne Rosacea, Roseola, a.k.a., "false measles."

      German measles. 

      A popular term for hernia.

      Scarlet fever - sometimes used in describing it in children.

  Scarlet Fever:
      A disease characterized by a red rash and sores.

  Scarlet rash: 


  Scrivners palsy:
      Writer's cramp.

      A type of Tuberculosis, effects lymph nodes of the neck.

      Weakened, spongy gums, hemorrhages under skin due to lack 
      of vitamin C.

      Blood poisoning, often fatal.

      Delirium tremens, related to alcohol abuse.

      A viral disease with skin blisters, caused by the 
      Chicken Pox virus.

  Ship's Fever:

      Inflammation of the brain caused by exposure to the sun.

      Milk sickness.

  Small Pox, smallpox:
      One of the most infectious and deadly diseases in the world, now
      seen only in controlled labratories for study and germ warfare
      research. There are two forms of small pox virus: variola major
      and variola minor, wtih the "major" strain beening a far worse

      The small pox virus is found in lesions in the upper respiratory
      tract, which can be transmitted by droplet secretions, and skin
      lesions. The virus is considered to be highly contagious, however,
      the route of transmission makes its spread relatively slow. 

      Small Pox has sometimes been mis-diagnosed as syphilis.  

  Softening of the Brain:
      Apoplexy, a stroke, a sudden paralysis. 

  Spina Bithida:
      Spina Bifida is a fault in the spinal column in which one or more
      vertebrae (the bones which form the backbone) fail to form properly,
      leaving a gap or split. The majority of babies born with spina 
      bifida have hydrocephalus.
      (See: Water on the brain, /hydrocephalus/)

  Spotted Fever:
      Typhus, cerebrospinal meningitis fever.

  Spurious Vaccinia:

  St. Anthony's fire:
      Shingles, caused by the same varicella-zoster virus that causes 
      Born dead.

  Stranger's Fever: 
      Yellow fever
  St. Vitus Dance: 
      Movement disorder due to any of several diseases of the nervous 
      system, characterized by jerky movements that appear to be well
      coordinated but are performed involuntarily, mainly of the face
      and extremities. Often a complication of a streptococcal 
      infection. Primarily a children's disease.

  Sudden Death:
      An immediate and most often unexpected death caused by heart 
      attack, stroke, etc.

  Suicide with Laudanum:
      Suicide by using Laudanum, an opium preparation, sometimes
      mixed in alcohol. 

  Summer complaint: 
      Another name for dysentery. It was known as such because of its
      high incidence in summertime. Along with cholera infantum, it
      was highly infectious and was usually the result of unsanitary
  Summer Sickness:
      Could be a light case of tuberculosis. May have been applied 
      to other illnesses such as summer complaint.
  Swamp Sickness:
      Possibly malaria, typhoid or encephalitis.

  Sweating Sickness: 
      Infectious & fatal disease most common to the British Isles
      in the 15th century.

      A venereal disease, sexually transmitted. 
  Tabes Mesenterica:
      Tuberculosis of the mesenteric glands in children, resulting in 
      digestive derangement and wasting of the body.
  Teething, Cutting Teeth:
      The entire process which results in the eruption of the teeth. 
      Listed in Morality Schedules as a cause of infant death. 

      Candida of the mouth. A disease characterized by whitish
      spots and ulcers on the membranes of the mouth, tongue, and
      fauces caused by a parasitic fungus. Synonyms: aphthae, 
      sore mouth, aphthous stomatitis.

  Tick Fever:
      Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever /Rickettsia rickettsi/. Despite the 
      name, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is most prevalent in the 
      Appalachian Mountains. It is a *tick-borne* rickettsia which invades
      both endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells. Patients are
      systemically sick, and the vasculitis can be fatal if untreated. 
      The ticks may attach themselves to any part fot the body. Look 
      for them everywhere. Check your clothes.               

  Toxemia of Pregnancy: 
      Eclampsia, high blood pressure and seizures.

  Trench mouth:
      Painful ulcers along gum line, usually caused by poor nutrition
      and poor hygiene
  Trismus Nascentium:
      Tetanus neonatorum.

      It is an diseases caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It can affect
      almost all the systems of the body. The most common affecion is the 
      respiratory system. See: Consumption.

  Tussis Convulsiva: 
      Whooping cough.
  Typhoid (typhoid fever): 
      Often caused by unsanitary water conditions and contaminated
      food or milk. Flies could carry the disease and contaminate
      food supplies. It was more common in swampy areas where shallow
      wells could become contaminated.

  Typhoid Pneumonia;
      May mean either Enteric Fever (typhoid Fever) with pulmonary 
      complications, or pneumonia with so-called typhoid symptoms.

      Infectious fever characterized by high fever, headache and

      Gas from the bowels, flatulence. 

      The opening of a vein for letting blood; phlebotomy.

  Varicocele, Varicocoele: 
      A varicose vein of the vein of the testicle


      A dilated (enlarged) vein.

  Venereal Disease:
      A sexually transmitted disease, a.k.a., a "social disease."


  Viper's Dance:
      St. Vitus dance, chorea

     A wound.

  Vulnus incisum:
     A wound caused by a cut.

  Vulnus punctum:
     Stab wound.

  Vulnus scaplet:
     Knife wound.

  Vulnus sclopeticum:
     Gunshot wound.

  Want of breath:
      Perhaps this was sleep apnea which is associated with irregular 
      heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

  Water on the brain, /hydrocephalus/:
      Caused by the inability of cerebro-spinal fluid to drain into 
      the bloodstream. Babies born prematurely are at risk of developing

  White swelling:
      Tuberculosis of the bone. 

  Whooping Cough, Hooping Cough:
      A a highly contagious disease of the respiratory system, usually 
      affecting children, that is characterized in its advanced stage 
      by spasms of coughing interspersed with deep, noisy inspirations.

      An inflammation of the fingers or toes, generally of the last 
      phalanx, terminating usually in suppuration. The inflammation
      may occupy any seat between the skin and the bone, but is usually
      applied to a felon or inflammation of the periosteal structures 
      of the bone.
      (Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary - 1913) 

      Whitlow is also a condition of the hoofs of horses.

  Winter Fever:

  Womb fever:
      Infection of the uterus. 
  Worm Fit: 
      Convulsions associated with teething, worms, elevated temperature
      or diarrhea.

  Worms, Tape Worms:
      Intestinal parasites.  

  Yellow Fever, a.k.a., Yellow Jack, Yellow Jacket:    
      Yellow fever is a devastating viral disease transmitted by the 
      yellowfever mosquito, /Aedes aegypti/ (L.). The disease originated
      in Africa and spread to the New World during the slave trade in the
      1500s. Epidemics occurred in the United States from 1794. Coastal 
      towns in the United States were particularly vulnerable to the disease
      in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It caused major problems
      in the building of the Panama Canal. The last epidemic of yellow fever
      in North America occurred in New Orleans in 1905 during which more 
      than 3000 cases were met with 452 deaths. Mild symptoms include 
      headaches, fever, muscular pains, and nausea. Yellow fever can cause 
      bleeding from the eyes, nostrils, anus and other mucous membranes.
      This terrible illness often causes dangerously high fevers,
      severe headaches, muscular pains, jaundice, black blood-filled 
      vomiting, deterioration of the liver, kidneys, and the heart. 
      Yellow fever can lead to delirium, coma, and death.

  Yellow Jaundice:
      Hepatitis A. It is a viral disease which affects the liver. It 
      occurs most often in school children and young adults. It may be
      known as infectious hepatitis. The illness usually begins with a
      sudden onset of fever (high temperature), feeling unwell, loss of
      appetite, nausea, and stomach pain which may be followed within a
      few days by jaundice: a yellow discolouration of the whites of the
      eyes and often the skin. Children may have mild infections without
      jaundice and often show no symptoms at all whilst adults can be 
      more severely affected. 

      It is an infectious disease and is most commonly spread from person
      to person by infected faeces (stools). The faeces are infectious for
      a week before the person becomes ill and for about a week after the 
      jaundice appears. It may also spread by contaminated food or water.
      (Source: SEeLH Resource Centres, Communicable Disease Control - UK)

      Other diseases or conditions may cause a yellow jaundice effect. 
      Example: Cirrhosis (irreversible damage to the liver cells caused 
      by many different factors) may cause jaundice. 


Reference sources for definitions:

Garrett, Laurie, The Coming Plague, newly emerging diseases in a world 
out of balance. Farr, Straus, and Giroux, 1994; Penguin, 1995, +.

William S. Haubrich, MD, FACP, Medical Meanings, American College of 
Physicians, Philadelphia, PA 1984, 1997.
Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary 

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary - 1913

Sources for the old names:

Bloom, Kaled J., "The Mississippi Valley's Great Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878"
publiched by Louisiana State University Press, 1993

Cunningham, Horace Herndon, "Doctors in Gray: The Confederate Medical
Service." Paperback, 1993.

Daniel, Larry J., "Soldiering in the Army of Tennessee" published by University of 
North Carolina Press, 1991.

Dictionary of Regional American English, Vols, I, II, III & IV. 
Frederic G. Cassidy,  Joan Houston Hall Editors. First four volumes, A-Sk, 
1985-2002. Belnap Press of Harvard University Press.

Dunglison, Robley, M.D., LL.D.,A, "Medical Lexicon. Dictionary of Medical Science; 
Containing a Concise Explanation of the Various Subjects and Terms of Anatomy, 
Physiology, Pathology, Hygiene, Therapeutics, Pharmacology, Pharmacy, Surgery, 
Obstetrics, Medical Jurisprudence, And Dentistry; Notices Of Climate, and of 
Mineral Waters; Formulae for Officinal, Empirical, and Dietetic Preparations; 
With the Accentuation and Etymology of the Terms. And the French and Other 
Synonymes; so as To Constitute a French as Well as English Medical Lexicon." 
Published by Henry C. Lea, Philadelphia, PA, 1865. 
(Twelve editions were printed, eleven with revisions, 1846-1876)

Tennessee Mortality Schedules (1850, 1860, 1880) Published by Byron
Sistler and Asscoiates, Nashville TN 1984, 1993.


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