THE name of this complaint is from a Greek word signifying the womb. It took this name from the belief that this organ is the seat of the irritation which produces the hysteric disturbance.
This belief is correct, if we include with the womb the ovaries and the other sexual organs. The sexual system is doubtless the centre of the reflex nervous derangement called hysteria.
It has been sufficiently demonstrated that hysterics are dependent for their existence either upon organic disease, or upon simple irritation of the sexual organs. Sir Benjamin Brodie mentions cases of the hysteric paroxysm, produced by pressing upon an inflamed and tender ovary.
Symptoms. An attack of hysterics is generally preceded by depression of spirits, restlessness, and a frequent desire to pass water. It is sometimes marked by convulsions, or fits; at other times, it is not. At times, the attacks are local,, and are manifested by spasm of the throat at the top of the windpipe, or in the bronchial tubes; the patient feels a ball rise up in her throat (globus hystericus), her heart beats violently, and she laughs and cries by turns.
When the disease is more general, the muscles of the limbs are thrown into spasms; the patient struggles violently; rising up in a sitting posture, and then throwing herself back; twisting the body from side to side, clenching the hands, and throwing the arms about, so that she is with difficulty held by persons much stronger than herself. Soon after these paroxysms, the patient generally passes a large quantity of very pale urine.
The Causes of this complaint are as numerous as the causes of female diseases, for in truth, there is no female complaint which may not produce it. Whatever develops and excites the sexual system, and at the same time weakens the constitution, lays the foundation of this malady. Nervous women are much inclined to it. In large cities there is more of it than in the country, because there is more excitement and luxury, and more of their consequences, nervous and female diseases.
Treatment. To treat this complaint successfully, it is necessary to search out its cause, and remove that. Like the whites, it is not so much a disease in itself as a symptom.
The first inquiry to be made should have reference to the real origin of the complaint. Is it dependent upon inflammation of the ovaries or the womb, or to displacement of this latter organ ? or does it arise from the low state of the blood, and the weakened condition of the nerves, acted upon by some irritation or heightened sensibility of the sexual organs?
If dependent upon inflammatory disease, that is to be treated acording to directions elsewhere; if upon falling of the womb, no remedies will avail until that is put in its proper place. If diluted blood and weakened nerves be the cause, iron and quinine are the remedies. When the complaint arises from deficient menstruation, iron and aloes (47) will be serviceable. The nervous spasm can sometimes be broken up by pouring cold water upon the head, or face, or limbs of the patient.
The Hygienic and Moral Treatment are of great consequence. The complaint is very much under the control of the will. Whatever tones the moral nature and strengthens the will, tends to subject this disorder to the control of the patient. Plain, wholesome diet, exercise, bathing, and the enforcing, as far as possible, of a rugged, self-reliant habit, generally go far towards breaking its force.
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