Clinical: The Good Old Days

Jaundice is one of the secondary diseases. Some cause, in the first place, stops the flow of bile from the liver, and jaundice, which consists in the absorption of the bile into the blood, is the effect. This impediment to the flow of the bile may arise from whatever blocks the canal of the gall duct. Gall stones, or thickened bile, are the most common obstructions, but tumours which press upon the duct, or spasm, may also induce jaundice.

Bile in the blood is quickly manifested by the colour of the skin, and more particularly of the white of the eye - the shade of colour varying from the slightest perceptible tinge, to deep golden yellow, or even brown.

The stools become white and chalky-looking, and the urine is deeply tinged with bile. The constitutional symptoms are generally those of disordered digestion, headache and languor.

For many reasons, jaundice is a disease which ought to be under proper medical treatment, not so much from the danger of the affection itself, as from its being symptomatic of disorder elsewhere. Should gall-stone or spasm be the cause, the case is generally plain, but should the presence of a tumour, or disease of the liver, be the origin, it requires medical examination.

The treatment of jaundice is very simple: from five to eight grains of 'grey powder' may be given at bedtime, either alone, or, if there is pain, made into pill with extract of henbane, and followed by a dose of castor oil or senna in the morning. When there is much acidity of the stomach, carbonate of soda may be given.

A mild attack of jaundice will generally yield to an aperient like the compound rhubarb pill. We also possess valuable aids in the treatment of jaundice in the comparatively recent medicines, euonymin and iridin, which exert a most potent effect upon the liver. The diet should be devoid of milk, fat, or saccharine articles, while the jaundice exists, and alcoholic stimulant avoided.

From A Dictionary of Domestic Medicine and Household Surgery, by Spencer Thomson MD LRCS and J C Steele MD, published in 1882 by Charles Griffin and Company, London.

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