Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Archaic Medical Terms

Looking at the cause of death on our older certificates it can be hard to determine what actually caused the death due to the usage of some archaic terms not normally used today.

Sometimes it is a case the cause given is more of a symptom seen, as many of these certificates were issued before knowledge of infectious diseases. So seeing the "Black Pox" the "Blue Pox" etc is not unusual or even 'Act of God'

Sometimes you might even see Causa Mortis Incognita  which means the cause of death was not known and the doctor wrote it in Latin rather than admit in English they didn't have a clue!


To celebrate the release of the second edition of my book Death Certificates and Archaic Medical Terms I am going to share some terms here, with another 1500 terms plus available in the book.


The book also examines the history and evolution of death certificates. When did they start? What is on them and why it can be a case of "Buyer Beware". 
What were the legal requirements? What does it mean when a death is certified? Why weren't all deaths certified? Where can you further information about death certificate availability in your geographic area and more.

This title is available in book form from several retailers across the world, along with titles from many other excellent genealogy authors. 
The outlets are:  
Gould Genealogy (Australia)
My History (UK)

Beehive Books (New Zealand)
Global Genealogy (Canada)
Maia's Books (United States)


It is also available as an ebook from gen-e-books

And as a special celebration of the release of the book gen-e-books is offering a $50 ebook voucher to be drawn from all those who purchase a copy of  my book as an ebook by 31 July 2015 AND sign up to their e-book newsletter (if you haven't already signed up to it)

I also write a blog Historical Medical Miscellany for which I hope to do more frequent posts this year.
 

Abdominal Angina: sharp pain in the abdomen caused by insufficient blood supply often occurs a couple of hours of eating


Abdominal Dropsy: Abnormal accumulation of fluid in abdominal cavity


Abortus: Miscarriage (Latin)


Absinthism: symptoms such as delirium tremens seen in Alcoholism. Absinthe is an aromatic herb was used to flavour alcohol particularly in Europe


Act of God: When death has occurred, often suddenly without a known reason, possibly stroke or aneurysm


Addison’s Disease: A rare, chronic condition brought about by the failure of the adrenal glands to produce cortisol and aldosterone. Thomas Addison first identified the disease in 1855 while working at Guy’s Hospital in London. At that time, the main cause of the disease was as a complication of tuberculosis


Aden Fever: Dengue fever


Albuminuria: excess of albumin in urine often seen in kidney disease


Angina Membranacea: see Diphtheria (Latin)


Anthracnosis: Occupational disease of coal miners due to prolonged exposure to the coal dust results in fibrosis of lungs due to deposition of anthracite coal dust in the lungs


Apoplexia Cordis: Heart Attack (Latin)


Autumnal Catarrh: Hay fever


Bacillary Dysentery: Dysentery caused by bacteria Shigella dysenteriae


Bacteraemia: Presence of bacteria in blood


Bad Blood: see Syphilis, an infectious venereal disease


Baghdad Boil: Cutaneous Leishmaniasis caused by parasitic protozoans of the genus Leishmania. It is transmitted by sand flies 


Bang’s Disease: Brucellosis caused by Brucella bacteria: can be found in contaminated milk, dairy products or with animal exposure particularly pigs, goats and cattle


Barometer Makers Disease: mercury poisoning


Belly Bound: Constipated


Bilious attack: Gastric distress caused by a disorder of the liver or gall bladder


Black Consumption: Occupational disease of coal miners. Due to prolonged exposure to the coal dust results in fibrosis of lungs


Black Mortification: Gangrene


Blackwater Fever: Dark urine associated with high temperature and breakdown of red blood cells, seen in malaria


Bladder in Throat: Diphtheria which causes a pseudo-membrane in the throat


Bleeder’s Disease: Haemophilia


Blue Baby: baby born with blue appearance. Usually due to a heart defect (generally a ventricular defect) which does not allow the blood to become fully oxygenated


Bowel Hives: Enteritis, diarrhoea. Could be caused by a range of diseases


Brassfounder’s Ague: Caused by inhalation of metal fumes when heating metals especially zinc


Bright's Disease: Inflammatory disease of kidneys may be acute or chronic. Ranked high as a cause of death 18th to early 20th centuries. Can be any of a range of diseases with the symptom of albuminuria (increased albumin (protein) in urine) First described by Dr Richard Bright in 1827


Bronze Diabetes: Caused by problem of iron overload which causes the skin to take on a bronze tint such as with haemochromatosis. Usually a genetic condition although iron overload has occurred in people long term home brewing in cast iron containers. Haemachromatosis


Camp Fever: Typhus. May also be typhoid fever caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhi or in malaria. Continuing fevers seen in the army, particularly in the US Civil War


Cancrum Oris: Deep ulcer of lip and cheek often seen in young children in poor hygiene conditions


Canine Madness: Rabies, hydrophobia


Carcinoma Prostata: Prostate cancer (Latin)


Causa Mortis Incognita: Cause not known (Latin)


Cerebral Congestion: Bacterial or viral infection of the brain (Meningitis/encephalitis)


Cerebrospinal Fever: meningitis, may be bacterial or viral in origin


Change of Life: Menopause


Costiveness: Constipation, retention of faeces in bowels


Cottonpox: Milder form of smallpox Variola Minor


Cramp Colic: Possibly appendicitis or, food poisoning. As a symptom it is hard to be sure of actual causative medical condition


Dead Palsy: Loss of motion or feeling in a part of the body, probably after effects of a stroke


Death Struck: apoplexy, stroke


Decay of Nature: Old age usually


Decrepita Aetas: Old age


Decrepitude: Feebleness often due to old age


Dentito: Cutting of teeth, often characterised with fevers in children (Latin)


Diphtheria: Contagious acute disease of the upper respiratory tract where a membrane can grow across throat caused by bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The bacteria produces toxins which can affect most of the organs of body


Dock Fever: Yellow fever


Domestic Illness: Mental breakdown (more usually used for women)


Dropsy: Swelling from accumulation of fluid, often caused by kidney disease or congestive cardiac failure


Egyptian Chlorosis: Hookworm causing anaemia


Empyema: Pus often in chest cavity around the external lining of the lung


Enteric Fever: Typhoid fever caused by a bacteria Salmonella Typhi


Epidemic Fever: Typhus


Epidemic Cholera: Asiatic cholera


Epidemic Parotitis: Mumps


Ergotism: A convulsive disease caused from ingesting the mycotoxins from mould on spoiled grain. The Calviceps purpurea fungus produces alkaloids and ingestion of these cause long term poisoning


Ergotoxicosis: see Ergotism


Erythroblastosis Fetali: Haemolytic disease of the newborn (Latin)

Exhaustion From Cold and Want: Starvation and hypothermia


Falling Sickness: Epilepsy


Famine Fever: Typhus


Febris: Fever (Latin)


Febris Delirio: Fever with delirium (Latin)


Febris Dysenterica: Fever with bloody faeces


Febris Morbillosa: Measles (Latin)


Filth Disease: Typhoid caused by Salmonella Typhi


Fort Bragg Fever: Leptospirosis


Galloping Consumption: Tuberculosis with symptoms showing rapidly even though illness would have been present for a time period


Gaol Fever: Typhus


Gibraltar Fever: Brucellosis caused by Brucella bacteria: can be found in contaminated milk, dairy products or with animal exposure particularly pigs, goats and cattle


Glomerulonephritis: Inflammation of both kidneys See Bright’s Disease


Haemachromatosis: Inherited iron overload disorder causes the body to absorb more iron than usual from food. It results in excess iron being stored throughout the body and can result in skin pigmentation, diabetes and heart failure. Over time, the liver enlarges becomes damaged and can lead to serious diseases such as cirrhosis


Halstern’s Disease: see Syphilis


Hanot’s Disease: Cirrhosis of liver


Hansen’s Disease: see Leprosy


Hatter's Disease: Mercury poisoning affects central nervous system


Hooping Cough: see Whooping cough


Hookworm: Infection by hookworm Ancylostoma duodenale and Nectator americanus parasitic nematode worms are abundant throughout the world, including in the following areas: southern Europe, North Africa, India, China, south east Asia, some areas in the United States, the Caribbean, and South America. Enters body through soles of feet. This hookworm is well known in mines because of the consistency in temperature and humidity that provide an ideal habitat for egg and juvenile development. Ancylostoma duodenal can be ingested in contaminated food and water but most common route and only route for Nectator americanus is through penetration of the skin. Anaemia major effect due to loss of iron and blood


Horrors: Delirium tremens: Hallucinations due to alcoholism


Imposthume: Abscess, collection of purulent matter


Jail fever: Typhus


King’s Evil: Tuberculosis of neck and lymph glands, scrofula. There was a belief the disease could be cured by the touch of the king



Lepra Syphilitica: Syphilis


Little’s Disease: Cerebral palsy first described by William John Little (1810-1894), British physician


Locked Jaw/Lockjaw: Tonic spasm of the muscles of mastication, causing the jaws to remain rigidly closed. Usually refers to tetanus


Lues Disease: Syphilis


Mad Hatter Syndrome: Mercury poisoning affects central nervous system. Occupational disease of hatmakers who used the mercury to stiffen the felt


Malarial Cachexia: Generalised state of debility that is marked by anaemia, jaundice, splenomegaly, and emaciation. Results from long-continued chronic malarial infection


Malignant Fever: Typhus


Marasmus: Severe malnutrition. Failure to thrive, usually used for young children


Marasmus Senilis: Wasting or decay of body in aged persons


Mariner Disease: Scurvy


Mediterranean Fever: Brucellosis caused by Brucella bacteria: can be found in contaminated milk, dairy products or with animal exposure particularly pigs goats and cattle


Membranous Croup: Diphtheria


Miasma: Before knowledge of infectious diseases the poisonous/bad smelling vapours thought to infect the air and cause disease


Miner’s Anaemia: See Hookworm


Morbid Intemperance: Alcoholism, overuse of alcohol


Morbus: Disease, sickness


Morbus Brightii: Bright’s disease, kidney disease which may be acute or chronic


Morbus Sacer: Epilepsy. It has been believed in the past that epileptics were ‘God-Touched’


Nautical Fever: Typhus on board ship


Necrosis: Death of cells, tissue or bone through injury or disease


Ohara's Fever: Tularaemia


Overlaid/Overlain: To lie over or upon a child so as to cause the child  to suffocate 


Pea-picker's Disease: Leptospirosis


Phosphorus Necrosis of the Jaw: Disease caused by contact or use of white phosphorous poisoning, often seen in matchmakers. Disease characterised by deterioration of bone especially lower jaw


Phthisis: Tuberculosis


Plague of Venus: Syphilis


Quick Consumption: Faster onset of tuberculosis symptoms, Galloping Consumption


Quintana Fever: Trench Fever


Rag-Pickers Disease: Malignant pustule and febrile disease probably anthrax, caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis
 

Ratcatchers’ Disease: Caused by Leptospirosis a bacterial disease often found in urine of rodents, (also known as Weil's syndrome, Mud fever, Field fever, Canefield fever, 7 day fever, Black Jaundice) Can also be the Bubonic Plague depending on time period and occurrence of plague among rats in the area


Rising of the Lights: Believed to be pleurisy, croup or some infection of the lungs


Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Acute rickettsial disease (Rickettsia rickettsia) transmitted by ticks. Major symptoms similar to epidemic typhus (headache, joint and back pain, prostration high fever which can progress to neurological symptoms and death).The rash covers whole body including palms and soles of feet. The 20-25% fatality rate in untreated patients makes it the most severe rickettsial infection in the Americas. Can also occur in Canada, the USA Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama and Brazil. Also known as Black Measles, Blue Disease due to the dark rash


Roseola Infantum: Sudden rash affecting infants and younger children caused by a virus Human Herpes Virus 6B or Human Herpes Virus 7 also known as Sixth Disease


Saint Gothard Anaemia: Hookworm


Scarlet Fever: Fever caused by a bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes generally presents as very sore throat, rash and fever. Before the availability of antibiotics, scarlet fever was a major cause of death. It also sometimes caused late complications, such as glomerulonephritis and endocarditis leading to heart valve disease (Rheumatic Fever), all of which were protracted illnesses and often fatal


Scurvy: Caused by lack of vitamin C which is required for collagen production in humans. Seen most often in sailors, soldiers or in starvation situations e.g. Irish Famine where people are unable to obtain fresh fruit or vegetables. Characterised by softening of the gums, haemorrhages under the skin and general debility can lead to death


Senectus Ultima: Old age


Sore Throat Distemper: Diphtheria or quinsy


Spanish Flu: Influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. So called as Spain at the time had no censorship of its newspapers and the outbreak was heavily reported there before being reported in countries with censorship due to World War One (even though illnesses had already occurred in those places). Exact origin of this strain of the influenza virus not known, postulated it could be the USA or China or indeed Europe


St Erasmus Disease: Colic


St Fiacre’s Disease: Haemorrhoids



St Gervasius Disease: Rheumatism


St Gete’s Disease: Carcinoma


St Gile’s Disease: Leprosy or Carcinoma


St Hubert’s Disease: Hydrophobia, rabies


St Job’s Disease: see Syphilis


St John’s Dance: see St Vitus Dance


St John’s Evil:  Epilepsy


St Main’s Disease: Scabies


St Vitus Dance: Also called Sydenham's chorea. Characterised by jerky, uncontrollable movements associated with rheumatic fever caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes


Stonemason’s Lung: Occupational Lung disease suffered by stonemasons due to inhalation of stone dust


Summer Complaint: Diarrhoea usually in infants/young children.. Possibly from spoiled food or milk which is more likely to spoil in summer


Thresher’s Fever: Acute inflammation of the lungs caused by a hypersensitivity reaction of the lung after contact with mould spores from hay, straw and other crops. Occupational disease


Throat Fever: Probably scarlet fever or could be diphtheria


Trench Foot: Condition caused by prolonged exposure to damp, cold, unsanitary conditions. Foot becomes cold, numb, mildly swollen. If untreated can progress to blisters and ulcers, tissue dies resulting in gangrene Particular problem on the western Front in World War One


Tuberculosis: Infectious disease of humans and animals caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis and characterised by the formation of tubercles on the lungs (around 90% of the time) and other tissues of the body, often developing long after the initial infection. The M. tuberculosis complex consists of four other TB-causing mycobacteria: M. bovis, M. africanum, M. canetti, and M. microti. M. bovis was once a very common form of tuberculosis but this has markedly decreased as a public health issue with the advent of pasteurised milk in developed countries. The other three mycobacteria are rarer causes of tuberculosis


Tularaemia: Infectious disease caused by the intracellular bacterium Francisella tularensis. Found in rabbits, hares and pikas in North America. The disease is named after Tulare County, California. (also Pahvant Valley Plague, Rabbit Fever, Deer Fly Fever, or Ohara’s Fever)


Typhoid Fever: An enteric fever caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhi. This was not known in earlier days so Typhoid and Typhus which had many similar symptoms were often confused. Typhoid was often more common in the summer months and warmer weather


Typhoid Fever of India: Asiastic Cholera


Typhus: caused by the Rickettsia bacterium (Rickettsia prowazeki) transmitted by bites from lice (particularly the human body louse). The epidemic or classic form is louse borne; the endemic or murine is flea borne. It is marked by high continued fever lasting from two to three weeks, stupor alternating with delirium, intense headache and by a copious eruption of dark red spots upon the body. Thirty percent plus of patients die. More commonly seen in winter potentially as spread by bite of insect with the colder weather clothes were not changed as often although can occur all year around


Variola: Smallpox, highly contagious viral disease characterised by fever and weakness and skin eruption with pustules that form scabs that slough off leaving scars in around 65-80% survivors. Has around 30-35% mortality rate. Blindness occurs in around 5% survivors. Last case seen in 1977 and the disease is believed to be eradicated


Variola Major: Most severe and most common form of smallpox, had around 30-35% mortality rate


Variola Minor: A milder form of smallpox causing less mortality (only about 1% of cases are fatal compared to 30-35% in Variola major


Variola Sine Eruptione: Smallpox with rash seen in some vaccinated people


Visitation of God: When death has occurred, often suddenly without a known reason, possibly stroke or aneurysm


War Fever: Epidemic Typhus caused by the Rickettsia bacterium transmitted by bites from human body louse see Typhus


White Plague: Tuberculosis


Yellow Fever: An acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by bite of mosquito A. aegypti infected with a Flavivirus. Found in Africa south of the Sahara and equatorial South America. (Yellow jack, American Plague, Bronze John, Dock Fever)