This section is from the book "The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine. Volume 2.", by J. H. Kellogg, M.D.. Also available from Amazon: The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine, Volume 2.
Of the three forms of venereal disease, this is of vastly greater consequence than either of the other two, gonorrhoea and chancroid, since this is a constitutional affection, while they are purely local in character.
The symptoms of this disease are too numerous for full consideration here, and we can only notice some of the chief features of the disease. It has three distinct stages. The first is a local manifestation, known as chancre. Two or three weeks, or longer, after exposure, a small, hard, reddish pimple makes its appearance, usually upon the genitals, although cases have occurred in which the disease was contracted by kissing, when the chancre was formed upon the lip. The pimple increases in size for a few days, and finally ulcerates, and discharges slightly. It does not usually give much inconvenience, and is, in fact, not infrequently unnoticed. In this respect the chancre differs much from the chancroid, a very important distinction. After a few days the glands of the groins become somewhat enlarged, although not very painful. After one to three months the secondary stage of the disease appears, as an eruption of red spots, which are followed by pimples. After a time, larger pimples or pustules make their appearance, leaving behind them pock marks like those of smallpox. Ulcers also appear in some cases. Simultaneously with the occurrence of the eruption, slightly raised spots of a whitish color, known as mucous patches, appear on the mucous membrane of the lips and tongue. A slight discharge arises from these patches, which is of a very contagious character. The patient also has sore throat, and often sore eyes; and after the general health has become considerably impaired, suffers greatly with pains in the head, arms, legs, breast, and particularly in the joints, though the pain is not confined to them as in rheumatism. Small swellings, known as nodes, which are tender on pressure, appear on the shins and other parts.
The above symptoms disappear after a few weeks, and the patient may seem to be well for several months or years; but unless the disease has been properly treated, it is all the time at work in the system, and next makes its appearance in the deeper tissues, particularly in the bones and cartilages of the nose and skull. Not infrequently the nose is greatly disfigured, or even wholly destroyed. The liver, lungs, kidneys, heart, and other internal organs, are also likely to be affected. No other disease makes such fearful ravages in the human constitution as this.
There is a great difference of opinion among physicians concerning the treatment and the curability of this disease. The eminent Prof. Van Buren, of New York, who has had a very extensive experience in the treatment of this affection, stated in our hearing, a few years ago, that he never dared to assure a patient that he was well, no matter how completely free from disease he might seem to be. Others claim to be able to effect a cure in nearly all cases. Mercury has been looked upon as the great antidote for syphilis; but as shown elsewhere (see pages 764-6), there are grounds for doubting the efficacy of this drug. According to Prof. Hughes Bennett, M. D., F. R. S. E., President of the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh, the mercurial treatment is being rapidly superseded by the "simple" method, which consists in careful regulation of all the habits of the patient, good hygiene, avoidance of spices, condiments, meat, and all stimulating foods, and the use of tepid baths and other eliminative treatment Two or three full baths may be taken daily with advantage, unless the patient is very weak. The vapor, hot-air, Turkish, and Russian baths are also useful. The wet-sheet pack is a very admirable remedy. Fomentations and tepid compresses should be applied to irritable parts. The patient should drink from one to two quarts of water daily. By these means the poison may be eliminated from the system; while by the mercurial treatment, according to Dr. Bennett and several other eminent German physicians, the mercurial treatment only checks the manifestation of the disease, thus merely delaying the expulsion of the poison from the system. With reference to the success of this mode of treatment, Dr. Bennett remarks: "More than eighty thousand cases have been submitted to experi ment, by means of which it has been perfectly established that syphilis is cured in a shorter time, and with less probability of producing secondary syphilis, by the simple than by the mercurial method." The same author further remarks: "The intensity of the disease in modem times has declined exactly in proportion as its treatment by mercury has diminished, and the disorder been left to follow its natural course. When we treat syphilis on the same principles that we do scarlatina and small-pox, it will prove infinitely less fatal than those disorders."
In order to be effectual, the treatment must be continued for months after the symptoms of the disease have disappeared, as the malady may appear even after the lapse of many years, and if not in the lifetime of the transgressor, may appear in his posterity.