Painters' Colic. Colica Pictorum
This form of colic is caused by the slow introduction of lead into the system, generally the carbonate of lead. It passes under the different English names of painters' colic, Devonshire colic, and dry bellyache. The first of these is the name by which it is most commonly known, from its frequent occurrence among painters, who use white lead (carbonate of lead) a great deal in the preparation of their colors.
Symptoms. The disease generally comes on in a very gradual way. At first, the appetite is impaired, there is a slight nausea, belching of wind, languor, very obstinate costiveness, transient pains, with a feeling of weight and tightness in the belly, and a disinclination to make any exertion.
By degrees, the pain in the bowels, and particularly about the navel, becomes more severe, and has a twisting character. The belly becomes hard, drawn in, and a little tender to pressure, and the stomach very irritable. The pain occasionally slacks off a little; but never, even in mild cases, entirely stops, as in other kinds of colic.
In some severe cases, the pain runs up to the chest, and down the arms; also down to the bladder, causing the urine to be passed with pain and difficulty, and giving a sense of weight and bearing down in the lower belly. During the severest pains, the countenance is pale, contracted, and full of suffering; cold sweats break out upon the face and limbs, and anxiety and agitation seize the patient.
When the disease is not seasonably removed, it degenerates into the chronic form, the mental and physical energies become torpid, the circulation in the small vessels inactive, the skin dry, harsh, shriveled, pale, sallow, or of a leaden hue, the temper irritable, desponding and gloomy, and the body wasted. Besides all this, the muscles which lift up the lower arm become palsied, so that, when the arms are raised, the hands hang down in a helpless condition. In some cases, there is a blue line along the edges of the gums.
Treatment. For relieving the pain and opening the bowels, the treatment should be very much the same as that for bilious colic. There is one article, however, which is thought to have some special influence in curing this disease, after it has become chronic; it is alum. Fifteen grains of alum, two of aloes, two of jalap, and four of ipecac powder, may be mixed, and taken for a dose two or three times a day. If the muscles of the arm be palsied, one thirtieth of a grain of strychnine may be added to the above. The aromatic sulphuric acid, taken as a drink, fifteen drops to the tumblerful of water, is always worthy of trial.
The use of the electromagnetic machine may be tried for the palsy; or a splint applied to the arm and hand, with vigorous friction once or twice a day, will sometimes do much for recovering the use of the muscles. (146), taken freely. The sulphuret of potassa, one ounce dissolved in a quart of water, and taken in teaspoonful doses, three times a day, is also worth a trial. The affected arm should be soaked an hour, once or twice a day, in the same amount of this latter salt, dissolved in a gallon of water.
Means of Prevention. The numerous persons who work in lead should comb their hair with a fine comb, wash their hands and face, and rinse their mouth several times a day, and also wash the whole person with soap once or twice a week, and with clear water, or saleratus and water, once a day. Their working clothes should be of a kind to admit of being washed once or twice a week, and they should be put off for others when out of the workshop. A paper cap should be worn while at work. The food of the workmen should not be exposed to the vapors or floating particles of lead, and consequently should not be carried into the shop; and when much of the poison is floating in the air of the workroom, it is a good plan to wear a mask to prevent its being drawn with the breath into the throat and lungs.
It has been said that those who eat freely of fat meats, butter, and other oily substances, are not attacked by the disease, though exposed to the poison. I know not what protection this can give, unless the skin is in this way kept more oily, which prevents the absorption of the poison. This would seem to afford a hint in favor of anointing the whole person once or twice a week with sweet oil.
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