Florida Mortality Schedules, 1850-1880


Glossary of Diseases and Conditions

A

  • Anasarca - Dropsy, or accumulation of fluid, between the skin and flesh all over the body (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).
  • Aphthae - A contemporary name for hand, foot and mouth disease, characterized by sores on the lips and in the mouth and intestines. Sometimes also called aphthous stomatitis (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Apoplexy - Sudden incapacitation, loss of sensation and cessation of motion caused by a stroke or hemorrhaging in the brain (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Ascites - Dropsy, or accumulation of fluid, in the belly region (McGown, Practical Treatise on the Most Common Diseases of the South, 1849).

B

  • Bilious Fever - A diagnosis often given anytime symptoms relating to an excessive amount of bile were involved, such as jaundice or vomiting or diarrhea containing bile. The underlying, and often undiagnosed, causes of a “bilious fever” were often malaria or hepatitis (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Brain Fever - A fever occurring in the head, usually caused by meningitis or encephalitis (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Bright’s Disease - A kidney infection characterized by the secretion of albumen in the urine (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).

C

  • Catarrh - This term was used to describe a variety of diseases featuring an extensive buildup of mucus in the airways or cavities of the body (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).
  • Childbed Fever - A fever occurring during or shortly after childbirth, often stemming from an infection of the reproductive organs. Also called puerperal fever (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Cholera Infantum - An often fatal disease of the digestive tract occurring in infants and young children. Symptoms included severe diarrhea and vomiting. Sometimes called the “summer complaint” because it generally appeared in the summer months (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Cholera Morbus - A disease of the digestive tract characterized by severe vomiting (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Congestion of Brain - More of a symptom than a disease, this condition described any of a variety of illnesses that increased blood pressure in the brain and caused a stroke or apoplexy (Roman, Archives of Neurology, 1987).
  • Congestive Chill - A common name for malaria in the 19th century. The word “congestive” stemmed from the tendency for patients to experience an accumulation of blood in the organs and away from the extremities (Eclectic Medical Journal, 1861).
  • Consumption - Another name for tuberculosis, a bacterial infection of the lungs.
  • Convulsions - Another name for seizures or involuntary muscle spasms. Associated with epilepsy and St. Vitus’ dance (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Croup - A disease mainly attacking infants, in which the mucous membranes of the trachea become inflamed and cause the secretion of a thick mucus that makes it difficult to breathe. Also called cynanche trachealis (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).

D

  • Dentition - This refers to an infection caused by the eruption of new teeth in an infant. In the absence of modern fever reducers or antiseptic agents these infections could sometimes cause serious symptoms and even death (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Diarrhea - Family members, census takers, and even medical professionals often gave this as a cause of death for any disease where the deceased had suffered from a prolonged intestinal complaint and a more specific diagnosis could not be made.
  • Dropsy - A general term meaning the accumulation of fluid in some part of the body. A diagnosis of “dropsy” often meant the condition was prevalent throughout the body, while a case in which the accumulation of fluid was more localized might receive a more specific diagnosis. Examples include dropsy of the belly (ascites), the brain (hydrocephalus), the chest (hydrothorax), or the skin (anasarca) (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).
  • Dysentery - A range of diseases causing inflammation of the large intestine. Symptoms included fever, severe diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Sometimes this was also called “flux.” The disease was thought to be endemic during the summer months (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Dyspepsia - A chronic condition of the stomach characterized by indigestion, heartburn, flatulence, nausea and loss of appetite. Although diagnosed as a disease all its own, dyspepsia was really a set of related symptoms that could be caused by a variety of underlying problems—some physical, others mental or behavioral (Talley and Choung, Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 2009).

E

  • Erysipelas - A bacterial infection of the skin that sometimes spread to internal organs and the bloodstream. The disease was sometimes confused with shingles. Some cases were very mild and only caused localized symptoms and discomfort, but the condition could quickly turn more serious in the absence of modern antibiotics (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).

F

  • Fits - Convulsions or seizures, sometimes related to epilepsy (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Flux - Another name for dysentery. Intestinal inflammation causing the patient to pass stools with blood was often diagnosed as “bloody flux” (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).

G

  • Gastritis - Inflammation of the stomach (McGown, Practical Treatise on the Most Common Diseases of the South, 1849).

H

  • Hives - Although hives are now generally defined as a rash of itchy red welts on the skin, in the 1800s the term was synonymous with cynanche trachealis, or the croup. The use of the term “hives” in this case is a corruption of the word “heaves,” which describes the patient’s spasmodic convulsions as they attempted to breathe (Mortality Statistics of the Seventh Census of the United States, 1855).
  • Hydrothorax - Another name for accumulation of fluid (dropsy) in the chest (McGown, A Practical Treatise on the Most Common Diseases of the South, 1849).

I

  • Inanition - Exhaustion resulting from a lack of nourishment, primarily seen in infants (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Intermittent Fever - Malarial infection characterized by episodic (hence the word ‘intermittent’) bouts of chills, fever, and sweating (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).

M

  • Malaria - An illness caused by a protozoan parasite transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. In the 1800s this disease was thought to emerge from miasmas, unhealthy emissions from swamps or dead or rotting plant and animal matter. Malaria was often described as an intermittent fever because patients could experience alternating episodes of chills, fever and sweating followed by normal body temperatures (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).
  • Marasmus - A loss of weight and strength, and atrophying of the muscles due to a lack of nutrition or a dramatic loss of blood (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Membranous Croup - A bacterial infection of the throat characterized by the development of a thick membranous layer on the tonsils, larynx or pharynx that could become ulcerated and slough off. The infection could sometimes paralyze parts of the respiratory tract, leading to suffocation and death. Also known as diphtheria (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Milk Fever - A condition preceding or accompanying the secretion of milk by women who were breastfeeding, usually coming on in the week following the birth of a child (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).

N

  • Neuralgia - A condition characterized by nerve pain, which could occur in a variety of sites in the body (McGown, A Practical Treatise on the Most Common Diseases of the South, 1849).
  • Palsy - Another name for paralysis, which could involve all or only parts of the body (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).

P

  • Phthisis Pulmonalis - Another name for consumption or tuberculosis of the lungs.
  • Pleurisy - Inflammation of the pleura, two membranes separating the lungs from the walls of the chest cavity (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Pneumonia - An infection of the lungs characterized by inflammation and a buildup of fluid that makes it difficult to breathe (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).
  • Puerperal Fever - A fever occurring during or shortly after childbirth, often stemming from an infection of the reproductive organs. Also called childbed fever (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Putrid Sore Throat - A popular name for severe ulceration of the throat caused by scarlet fever or quinsy. This ulceration could sometimes devolve into an abscess, which produced the disagreeable odor that gave the condition its nickname (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).

Q

  • Quinsy - Inflammation of the tonsils, which could proceed to an abscess (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).

R

  • Remittent Fever - Another name for malaria. Describing a fever as remittent rather than intermittent generally meant the symptoms were constant rather than appearing at intervals (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).

S

  • St. Anthony’s Fire - Another name for erysipelas (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • St. Vitus’ Dance - A popular name for chorea, a neurological disorder characterized by convulsive movement of the limbs. The disease gets its name from the devotees of St. Vitus, who were reputed to have spent so much time dancing that their minds were impaired and they could only restore their sanity by dancing on the his feast day, June 15 (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).
  • Scrofula - Tuberculosis occurring outside the lungs, typically in the form of glandular tumors in the neck. These tumors could become ulcerated, and the tuberculosis infection could spread to the lungs (McGown, A Practical Treatise on the Most Common Diseases of the South, 1849).
  • Septicemia - Another name for blood poisoning caused by bacteria. Some doctors believed septicemia could result from breathing foul air (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).

T

  • Teething - Another name for dentition, the eruption of new teeth in an infant. This process sometimes caused an infection that triggered a fever. In the absence of modern fever reducers or antiseptic agents these infections could sometimes cause serious symptoms and even death (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Typhoid or Typhus - A fever-causing disease spread through contact with contaminated food and water. The disease was particularly prevalent in institutional settings with poor sanitation, such as in jails and camps or aboard ships (Hooper, Lexicon Medicum, 1860).

W

  • Whooping Cough - A popular name for pertussis. The disease is characterized by a violent convulsive cough, each exhalation being followed by a loud, deep inhalation, hence the word “whoop.” The disease was primarily seen in children (Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1893).
  • Worms - This could refer to any of a number of intestinal infections involving hookworms, roundworms, or similar parasites.

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