Exciting Causes of Consumption.
THE preponderance of the nervous force being the state which predisposes to disease, whatever unduly excites the nervous energy invites an attack.
These causes relate, mostly, to the prolonged exercise of the intellect, the passions, and the sentiments.
Few are aware of the mischief clone by excessive stimulation of the mind during the most active period of life, especially if the muscular system be left half developed. Here is where ambitious students commit great errors.
The constant plying of the mental powers, in the present modes of educating children, leads to a dreadful abridgment of human life. Better to train the bodily powers first, and let the mental culture come in later time. He who would build a lasting structure must lay a solid foundation.
The age in which we live abounds in the causes of excitement. The world is trembling with excess of mental life. The pine trees burned by the steam engine are scarcely more numerous than the human constitutions consumed by the train of thought it has set on fire.
Nor are the passions and sentiments less exercised, or less destructive.
Briefly, the causes of consumption embrace all those things which bring a destructive force against the digestive and assimilative functions, as insufficient and improper food, debaucheries, night watches, sedentary habits, anxiety of mind, etc.; and those which act injuriously upon the breathing organs, as impure air, inflammation of the lungs, pleurisy, measles, hoping cough, etc.; and such as disturb the sweating process, as insufficient clothing, sudden changes of temperature, sleeping in damp sheets, etc. These exalt the nervous force, or depress the vegetative, or inflame the mucous lining of the air. tubes, or the substance of the lungs, or the membranous sack which encloses them, so as to induce one form or other of consumption on the principles I have explained.
The immediate cause of consumption we know, now a days, to be due to a deposit of tubercles either in the neighborhood of the vocal cords, the upper parts of the lungs, or, not infrequently, at the bases of the same. These tubercles contain a germ called the Tubercle Bacillus, which can only be seen with a high power microscope, and then only after being stained with certain aniline colors which they absorb. These little germs are of the rod shaped variety of bacilli, and appear under the microscope as little straight lines or rods about 1 inch in length. Their presence in the sputum of a person means tuberculosis of some part of the air passages; when they are associated with the presence of yellowish fibers (seen under the microscope) they are a proof of the deposit being in the lungs proper. The examination of one's sputum, therefore, in the early part of any prolonged and suspicious cough, becomes an absolute necessity, since thereby one is made aware, in the earliest stages, of this dreadful disease, and an opportunity offered of attacking it at once in its incipiency. This modern discovery has given rise to much experimentation in treatment with the aim in view of killing out the germ. Robert Koch of Berlin announced to the world, a short time, ago, that be had discovered an agent, which be called Tuberculin, that would eradicate these death producing germs, but time has shown his efforts to be unsuccessful as yet, although promising of great results in the future. These germs are contagious in character, so that we now can explain why many contract consumption in whose ancestral blood there never existed any tubercular taint.
We know that husband may impart the disease to wife and mother to daughter if only the system is in a receptive state to offer a lodgment to the germs. These tiny but most enduring bacilli retain their life for an indefinite time in the midst of dust and other dried secretions, so that a practical point is that all persons Suffering from tuberculosis diseases should be exceedingly careful where they spit and with whom they sleep. To raise the sputum into small paper cups which may be burned is a common and very prudent custom.
This discovery, while not disproving the old theory of heredity, nevertheless explains many a case of acquired Phthisis, and clears up many an old fashioned theory.
These are indisputable facts from which the medical profession at present hope to derive practical benefit by the discovery of some germicide which may be applicable and safe for internal administration.
Can Consumption be Cured? In many cases it can. It maybe cured, first, by the absorption of the tubercles. The celebrated John Hunter shows, in his work on the blood, that the absorbent vessels have a sort of elective affinity, by which they take up and remove ,all adventitious new matter, as tumors" (tubercles are albuminous tumors), more easily 1, than those parts which were originally formed." Were this not so, an activity in these vessels equal to the removal of tubercles would cause them to waste all the tissues, and aggravate rather than cure consumption. Probably this does occur where proper hygienic means are not used to quicken the excretions. This hygienic treatment, to be spoken of hereafter, is not generally employed, certainly not as effectually as it should be. Here is the source of Laennec's fatal remark, so often quoted and so widely endorsed, that nature's efforts towards effecting a cure are injurious, and those of art are useless." Laennec's position cannot be true, if Hunter's statement is correct. If the absorbents, by an elective instinct, take up adventitious matter rather than the natural tissues, then the reason why they reverse this rule in consumption is, that by a weakened state of the constitution, the ultimate particles are not well put together, and are more easily taken apart than those of the adventitious tubercular tumors; and if we would restore these vessels to their natural activity, we must improve assimilation, and knit the unloving molecules into a firmer brotherhood. We must make the flesh hard, so that the absorbents cannot pick it to pieces. Do this, and ,nature's efforts to effect a cure" will not be injurious."
A second form of cure is the reestablishment of the assimilative function, the building up of the general health, the arresting of the tubercular deposit, the reducing of tubercles already formed to an indolent state; and then, by a strict observance of the laws of health, keeping them in that condition through life.
A third mode of cure is the healing of the cavities after the tubercles have softened, broken down, and been expelled in the form of expectoration.
A fourth method of cure is a change of tubercles to calcareous matter. These calcareous tubercles, Laennee says, 11 are consequent to tuberculosis affections that have been cured." And Andral, at one time, hoped to learn how to effect cures by changing tubercles to the calcareous phosphate."
I have had several cases of cure by this last method, and have quite a collection of calcareous substances which my j)patients have coughed up, one of which was raised in my presence by a lady who was a few years before in hopeless consumption, but is now in good health.
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