Definition

A disease involving the entire system, and believed to be connected with changes in the composition and character of the blood, leading to rupture of the small vessels and the development of blood spots and patches in the skin, the mucous membrane of the eyelids, the nose, and various parts and organs of the body. Examination of the blood, both before and after death, show the white cells or corpuscles to be in excess of the normal amount, and the red corpuscles to be very soft and sticky, so that they adhere together in • irregular masses, instead of arranging themselves in rows one on the other as they are seen to do in health. Moreover, many of the white corpuscles are broken up, filling the blood with granular debris.

Causes

But little can be said as to the precise cause of purpura, but from the history of the disease, and the changes observed in the blood, there is ground for the belief that it is due to an organic ferment acting upon its corpuscular elements, and through them disordering the general nutrition of the body- and that of the vessels in particular. It is best known as a sequel to certain fevers and affections of a debilitating character - as influenza, strangles, pneumonia, and pleurisy, - but it also occurs in animals while in health, and especially those in a plethoric condition. Bad ventilation and indifferent drainage are suspected of being sometimes concerned in the induction of this disease, but how or in what measure it is impossible, with our present knowledge, to determine.

Symptoms

The onset of the malady is sometimes very sudden, and especially so in those cases where the victims are full-blooded or plethoric. The first signs are either a swelling of the lips or a trickling of bloodstained fluid from the nostrils, or both these symptoms may appear at the same time. The swelling then extends up the face until the head becomes generally enlarged and unsightly, and the breathing considerably interfered with. In many instances attention is first directed to enlargement of one or more of the legs, or to a soft doughy swelling beneath the belly.

PURPURA HAMORRHAGICA.

PLATE XXXIII. PURPURA HAMORRHAGICA.

The lining membrane of the eyelids, or the nostrils, or both, becomes spotted over with extravasated blood, and in some cases blood-stained fluid oozes from the skin at numerous points. The urine also may be discoloured by admixture with blood.

Purpura is always attended with a good deal of prostration, a varying amount of fever, and general constitutional disturbance. In cases where the swelling is considerable, and the disease protracted, sloughing of skin in the region of the lips, or from the heels, is not unlikely to occur.

Treatment

Good sanitation and hygiene are matters of the first importance in dealing with this affection. A roomy, well-ventilated loose-box with efficient drainage should be provided for the patient, and the floor should be strewn daily with carbolic solution, or some other equally efficient disinfectant. The body is to be well clothed and bandages applied to the legs with the object of keeping up the surface circulation, while at the same time a free and plentiful supply of air is allowed both night and day. The strength of the animal should be supported by good manger food, suitably prepared by boiling and scalding, as well as by eggs, beef-tea, etc. Stimulants, in the form of whisky or gin, will be found to aid materially in supporting the powers of life and guarding against complications. As to drugs, turpentine with tincture of perchloride of iron are generally employed with the object of arresting hemorrhage and restoring the integrity of the red corpuscles. One ounce of each of these may be given in a pint of gruel morning and evening. A method of treatment which has been attended with marked success, both in this country and on the Continent, is that of injecting into the trachea or windpipe a weak solution of iodine in iodide of potassium. Four grains of the former to 8 or 10 of the latter, dissolved in an ounce of water, suffices for a dose.

Should the bowels be constipated, a little linseed-oil may be given in the food twice a day until a better condition is induced, but it should not on any account be carried to the extent of exciting purgation.

Where sloughing of skin takes place the wounds will require to be freely and repeatedly disinfected with one or another of the agents commonly used for this purpose.

When this disease appears in a mild form, as it sometimes does, it is termed by some scarlatina. There is, however, no disease of the horse which in any way resembles scarlatina, either clinically or pathologically.