Monthly Archives: May 2012

Women and their crazy diseases, part three

Chapter 3 – The vagina can become diseased, as well. A very short chapter wherein he describes a woman who was basically born with a cul-de-sac down in the valley. She didn’t appear to have a uterus upon examination; well, then, how is that a disease of the vagina? Moving on

Chapter 4 – Leukorrhea, which is basically a white, milky-like discharge from the vagina. I never knew it had a technical term. He has all these theories about the different types, and how they affect certain types of women. Shut up, dude, it’s normal unless it smells or is a different color. They thought that women of idle dispositions, or who drink thin “unnourishing” drinks like tea or coffee, or those who indulge too much in warm baths or the use of foot stoves, were most susceptible to leukorrhea. They had no idea where it came from. They stuck sponges in women’s girly bits to attempt to shed some light on its origins.

So, what cure does the good doctor advise? Wash the pudenda, eat a milk and vegetable diet, and indulge in some bloodletting – you know, the usual. This is to reduce the pulse, and when that has been done to satisfaction, then tincture of cantharides (Spanish fly) until the patient experiences strangury, which is the painful, frequent voiding of the bladder to little effect (essentially, straining to only pee a few drops, at best). Usually, Dr. Dewees would make a patient undergo two rounds of this, and then the leukorrhea would disappear. Gee, I wonder why! If the strangury was very bad, the doctor advises flax-seed tea, or barley water, or gum Arabic, or LAUDANUM, and bed rest. I presume these were all orally taken, as the next direction advises an enema of CAMPHOR, LAUDANUM, and starch.

This treatment was usually followed by an astringent injection, usually of zinc acetate (what we normally see today in anti-itch creams). However, one should wash out the vagina with SOAP and water thoroughly prior to this. Soap? Soap?! No wonder these women had problems!

And then, on top of this, they advised no meat, as it was considered a “weak” ailment, and therefore, foods normally doled out to invalids were administered. The more I read these old books, the more thankful I am to live in modern times . . .

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