Medical Conditions, Definitions

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Also, this is by NO means all of medical problems that the soldiers suffered while in the military during the war. I will be adding more as I run across them.  If anyone knows of more medical problems the soldiers had, please let me know and I'll add them here.

Camp Itch-"Camp Itch" was a painful skin disease, involving itching, lesions, and inflammation, suffered by soldiers both North and South during the Civil War. Doctors debated the cause of the itch. Certainly some cases were really scabies, a very contagious skin disease caused by mites and quickly spread by shared blankets as well as in crowded conditions. Some doctors, however, stated that camp itch was not scabies as no "animaliculae" were present. Whether scabies or not, the itch resulted from the poor hygiene of troops who bathed infrequently, suffered numerous scratches and bites, and were generally very dirty. Then, when afflicted, the men scratched, making the problem worse. The itch became so severe in some cases that 31,947 Union troops and quite a number of Confederates had to be hospitalized for treatment of the infections that followed.

Mental Imbecility.  The term imbecile was once used by psychiatrists to denote a category of people with moderate to severe intellectual disability, as well as a type of criminal. The word arises from the Latin word imbecillus, meaning weak, or weak-minded. ... The meaning was further refined into mental and moral imbecility.

Cerebritis is an infection of the brain that normally leads to the formation of an abscess within the brain itself.

Endocarditis is an infection of the endocardium, which is the inner lining of your heart chambers and heart valves. 
Endocarditis generally occurs when bacteria, fungi or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart. If it's not treated quickly, endocarditis can damage or destroy your heart valves and can lead to life-threatening complications.

Typhoid fever is contracted by drinking or eating the bacteria in contaminated food or water. People with acute illness can contaminate the surrounding water supply through stool, which contains a high concentration of the bacteria. Contamination of the water supply can, in turn, taint the food supply.  Typhoid killed around 30,000 Confederate and 35,000 Union troops during the war. 1 out of every 3 people who contracted this disease died of it.

Pneumonia was responsible for the deaths of 20,000 Union and 17,000 Confederate troops. 1 in 6 people who got this disease died from it. Stonewall Jackson died from Pneumonia after being shot during the battle of Chancellorsville by his own men.  Pneumonia was more of an opportunistic type of disease. It looked for weak people to inject itself into. If you became wounded on the battlefield or became sick with something else there was a good chance Pneumonia was going to find you.

Measles killed a lot of people during the Civil War around 11,000 soldiers in total. Not as many as other diseases did but it had its fair share. With so many people gathered in such small areas this disease was able to spread rapidly. About 1 in 20 people who got this disease died as a result of it.

Tuberculosis killed about 14,000 soldiers during the war. There was no known cure for it during the war. Even today there is no real cure, it can be treated but never cured. Once you get this disease you get it for life.

Malaria was also prevalent during the war killing roughly 30,000 soldiers. This number is high but considering around 3 million people contracted the disease it was not often fatal. This was due in large part to the readily available supply of quinine, which was used to successfully prevent and treat the disease.

The biggest thing that all of these Civil War diseases had in common was that nobody had any idea how to cure them. With the exception of Malaria.  This spelled bad news if you were one of the unfortunate ones to come down with any of these diseases.

Apoplexy: A venerable term for a stroke, a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), often associated with loss of consciousness and paralysis of various parts of the body. The word "apoplexy" comes from the Greek "apoplexia" meaning a seizure, in the sense of being struck down. In Greek "plexe" is "a stroke."

Paralysis Agitans is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system characterized by tremor and impaired muscular coordination.  In the old days when malaria was a common diagnosis for many different conditions, paralysis agitans apparently followed malaria so often that there was thought to be some connection between the two diseases. 

Dysentery--an infectious disease marked by inflammation and ulceration of the lower part of the bowels, with diarrhea that becomes mucous and hemorrhagic.  Dysentery was the worst disease of the Civil War, and the overall main killer of soldiers in the war. Dysentery killed approximately 45,000 Union soldiers and 50,000 Confederate soldiers. This disease, called "quickstep" by the soldiers, involves inflammation of the intestine causing abdominal pain and diarrhea containing blood, and may also involve a fever.

Spermatorrhea--abnormally frequent and involuntary nonorgasmic emission of semen.

Chronic Diarrhea--an intestinal disorder characterized by abnormal frequency and fluidity of fecal evacuations.

Bronchitis--acute or chronic inflammation of the membrane lining of the bronchial tubes, caused by respiratory infection or exposure to bronchial irritants, as cigarette smoke.

Hemoptysis--Spitting up blood or blood-tinged sputum from the respiratory tract. Hemoptysis occurs when tiny blood vessels that line the lung airways are broken. Hemoptysis can be harmless such as from irritated bronchial tubes with bronchitis, or be serious such as from cancer of the lung.

Syphilis--Syphilis is a highly contagious disease spread primarily by sexual activity, including oral and anal sex. Occasionally, the disease can be passed to another person through prolonged kissing or close bodily contact. Although this disease is spread from sores, the vast majority of those sores go unrecognized. The infected person is often unaware of the disease and unknowingly passes it on to his or her sexual partner.

Endocarditis is an infection of the endocardium, which is the inner lining of your heart chambers and heart valves.
Endocarditis generally occurs when bacteria, fungi or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart. If it's not treated quickly, endocarditis can damage or destroy your heart valves and can lead to life-threatening complications. Treatments for endocarditis include antibiotics and, in certain cases, surgery.

Pharyngitis is caused by swelling in the back of the throat (pharynx) between the tonsils and the voice box (larynx). Most sore throats are caused by colds, the flu, coxsackie virus or mono (mononucleosis). Bacteria that can cause pharyngitis in some cases: Strep throat is caused by group A streptococcus.

Lumbago--pain in the muscles and joints of the lower back.

Gastronitis---Gastritis is a general term for a group of conditions with one thing in common: inflammation of the lining of the stomach. The inflammation of gastritis is most often the result of infection with the same bacterium that causes most stomach ulcers. Regular use of certain pain relievers and drinking too much alcohol also can contribute to gastritis.

Gastritis may occur suddenly (acute gastritis), or appear slowly over time (chronic gastritis). In some cases, gastritis can lead to ulcers and an increased risk of stomach cancer. For most people, however, gastritis isn't serious and improves quickly with treatment.

Synovitis--- Synovitis is the medical term for inflammation of the synovial membrane. This membrane lines joints that possess cavities, known as synovial joints. The condition is usually painful, particularly when the joint is moved. The joint usually swells due to synovial fluid collection.

Tabes Mesentinica--Tuberculosis of the mesenteric and retroperitoneal lymph nodes.

Ascites--Rapidly developing (acute) ascites can occur as a complication of trauma, perforated ulcer, appendicitis, or inflammation of the colon or other tube-shaped organ (diverticulitis). This condition can also develop when intestinal fluids, bile, pancreatic juices, or bacteria invade or inflame the smooth, transparent membrane that lines the inside of the abdomen (peritoneum). However, ascites is more often associated with liver disease and other long-lasting (chronic) conditions.

Varicosis--a common condition characterized by one or more tortuous, abnormally dilated vessels, usually in the legs or the lower trunk. It most often occurs in persons between 30 and 60 years of age. Varicosis may be caused by congenital defects of the valves or walls of the veins or by congestion and increased intraluminal pressure resulting from prolonged standing, poor posture, pregnancy, abdominal tumor, or chronic systemic disease. Symptoms include pain and muscle cramps with a feeling of fullness and heaviness in the legs. Dilation of superficial veins is often evident before the condition produces discomfort.

Hydrocele--a circumscribed collection of fluid; especially, a painless swelling of the scrotum caused by fluid in the tunica vaginalis testis, the outermost covering of the testes. It can be removed by withdrawing the fluid by tapping through the outer layer of tissue, or by cutting away the outer layer of tissue. The latter operation makes it impossible for the hydrocele to recur.

Catarrhus--inflammation of a mucous membrane (particularly of the head and throat), with free discharge of mucus.

Sycosis--a staphylococcal infection and irritation of the hair follicles in the beard region; it may be associated with other superficial bacterial infections such as impetigo or furunculosis. Symptoms include burning, itching, and pain, with formation of small papules and pustules that drain, form crusts, and leave scars when they heal. The condition is treated with bland hot compresses, antibiotics applied locally and administered parenterally, and manual epilation of the infected hairs. Scrupulous cleanliness and personal hygiene are necessary to prevent reinfection.

Brights Disease---is any kidney disease characterized by albuminuria and heightened blood pressure.

Myelitis--inflammation of the spinal cord or of the bone marrow

Dysopia--Defective vision.

Chronic Cystitis--Cystitis is defined as inflammation of the urinary bladder. Urethritis is an inflammation of the urethra, which is the passageway that connects the bladder with the exterior of the body. Sometimes cystitis and urethritis are referred to collectively as a lower urinary tract infection, or UTI. Most UTIs in adult males are complications of kidney or prostate infections. They usually are associated with a tumor or kidney stones that block the flow of urine and often are persistent infections caused by drug-resistant organisms. UTIs in men are most likely to be caused by E. coli or another gram-negative bacterium. S. saprophyticus, which is the second most common cause of UTIs in women, rarely causes infections in men. Risk factors for UTIs in men include:
Lack of circumcision. The foreskin can harbor bacteria that cause UTIs.
Urinary catheterization. The longer the period of catheterization, the higher the risk of UTIs.
The symptoms of cystitis and pyelonephritis in men are the same as in women.

Periostitis--Inflammation of the periosteum. (The thick, fibrous membrane covering the entire surface of a bone except its articular cartilage and the areas where it attaches to tendons and ligaments. In young bones, it consists of two layers: an inner cellular layer that is osteogenic, forming new bone tissue, and an outer fibrous connective tissue layer conveying the blood vessels and nerves supplying the bone; in older bones, the osteogenic layer is reduced.)

Gonorrhea--Gonorrhea is a highly contagious sexually transmitted disease that is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The mucous membranes of the genital region may become inflamed without the development of any other symptoms. When symptoms occur, they are different in men and women. In men, gonorrhea usually begins as an infection of the vessel that carries urine and sperm (urethra). In women, it will most likely infect the narrow part of the uterus (cervix). If untreated, gonorrhea can result in serious medical complications.

Serofulous--pertaining to, resembling, of the nature of, or affected with scrofula. (primary tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands, especially those of the neck.)

Anchilosis--abnormal stiffening and immobility of a joint due to fusion of the bones.

Pertussis---Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. In many people, it's marked by a severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like "whoop." 

Inquinal Hernia--An inguinal hernia occurs when tissue, such as part of the intestine, protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal muscles. The resulting bulge can be painful, especially when you cough, bend over or lift a heavy object.  An inguinal hernia isn't necessarily dangerous. It doesn't improve on its own, however, and can lead to life-threatening complications. Your doctor is likely to recommend surgery to fix an inguinal hernia that's painful or enlarging. Inguinal hernia repair is a common surgical procedure.

Rubeola--Medical term for measles.

Smallpox--Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by one of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977 and the World Health Organization (WHO) certified the global eradication of the disease in 1980. The risk of death following contracting the disease was about 30%, with higher rates among babies. Often those who survived had extensive scarring of their skin and some were left blind.

From May 1861 to June 1866, there were 12,236 reported cases of smallpox among white troops in the Union Army, or 5.5 per thousand men annually. In addition, there were 6,716 cases among the U.S. Colored Troops, or 36.6 per thousand men annually. The death rates from the disease were approximately 23 percent for the white troops and 35 percent for the colored troops. Quarantine, vaccination, and the destruction of infected clothes and bedding were the primary tools used to control the spread of smallpox in the armies. Most hospitals had a separate ward, or even a separate hospital, in which to isolate smallpox patients since the disease was known to be contagious.

The best and purest source for vaccine was from cows or calves. The crust from the cowpox pustules were used as the source of the virus. The pressing demands of war often led authorities to institute programs that obtained the scabs from vaccinated humans. The Union medical dispensaries of the northern cities supplied vaccine virus in the form of crusts taken from vaccinated infants, each with a certificate listing the dispensary and the child’s name. Crusts were also supplied from cows, in at least one instance from calves infected with the “humanized” virus, not naturally occurring cowpox.

In the Confederacy, many programs were set up to assure an adequate supply of vaccine scabs for the army. Every hospital had a medical officer whose job was to search the surrounding populace for children on whom they could propagate the virus. Ads were taken out in local papers offering free vaccination to children if the crusts were then allowed to be harvested. Both white and African American children were used to supply scabs, and in at least one instance a small group of African American children were kept vaccinated to provide usable material. The children were vaccinated in six places in each arm. In two weeks the crusts were removed, wrapped in tin foil, and shipped to army surgeons. Late in the war, a shortage of virus material led to an authorization to pay private physicians five dollars per usable scab.

Epilepsy--Epilepsy is a condition in which a person has recurrent seizures. A seizure is defined as an abnormal, disorderly discharging of the brain's nerve cells, resulting in a temporary disturbance of motor, sensory, or mental function.

There are many types of seizures, depending primarily on what part of the brain is involved. The term epilepsy says nothing about the type of seizure or cause of the seizure, only that the seizures happen again and again. A stricter definition of the term requires that the seizures have no known underlying cause. This may also be called primary or idiopathic epilepsy.

Erysipilis (Erysipelas) an acute, sometimes recurrent disease caused by a bacterial infection. It is characterized by large, raised red patches on the skin, especially that of the face and legs, with fever and severe general illness.

Acute Nephritis:  Inflammation of the kidneys.

Hypertophy of the heart: Left ventricular hypertrophy is enlargement and thickening (hypertrophy) of the walls of your heart's main pumping chamber (left ventricle). Left ventricular hypertrophy can develop in response to some factor — such as high blood pressure or a heart condition — that causes the left ventricle to work harder.   

Articular Rheumatism:--While arthritis confined to a single joint, or involving a greater or lesser number of joints in varying distribution, may be due to a number of causes, acute articular rheumatism is to be looked on as a specific infectious arthritis whose etiologic factor, however, has not yet been positively identified.

Phythies Pulmonosis:  A disease characterized by the wasting away or atrophy of the body or a part of the body.  Also known as Tuberculosis. Other names. Phthisis, phthisis pulmonalis, consumption. 

Pleuro. pneumonia:  Pneumonia complicated with pleurisy.  Pleurisy--inflammation of the pleurae, which impairs their lubricating function and causes pain when breathing. It is caused by pneumonia and other diseases of the chest or abdomen.

Icterus: technical term for jaundice. 

Jaundice: a medical condition with yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, arising from excess of the pigment bilirubin and typically caused by obstruction of the bile duct, by liver disease, or by excessive breakdown of red blood cells.

 

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