This disease is intensely painful and requires prompt and vigorous treatment to prevent its assuming a highly dangerous form. The suffering has often been represented as similar to that endured by the mother in childbirth. It is generally attended with fever, sometimes accompanied with thirst, headache, nausea and vomiting. The dysenteric attack may be preceded by diarrhoea or rheumatic symptoms, or from the commencement assume the form of a decided dysentery. It cannot be looked upon as a diarrhoea, from which it may readily be distinguished, but it is essentially an inflammation of the mucous membrane of a certain portion of the intestine. No faeces are discharged, but mucous or bloody stools, accompanied with.straining and tenesmus, and generally preceded bysevere griping pain in the bowels. The appearance of faeces, though they may be mixed with blood, indicates that the inflammation is subsiding, reaction taking place, and that the patient is decidedly advancing towards convalescence. The discharges at first, may be of a whitish or jelly-like mucus, resembling the scraping of the intestines, (called Dysenteria alba or white dysentery) speedily followed by the bloody flux or red dysentery of a mucous and bloody character, from the inflamed surface of the intestines, mixed with membranous shreds, and morsels that resemble flesh. The evacuations may vary in color, green, black, and reddish, like the washings of meat and very fetid. During this state there is of course a continuance of febrile symptoms, great restlessness and intense anguish.
The disease may terminate in mortification and exhaustion, in a chronic dysentery, or in health.
Dysenteries are particularly violent in warm climates, sometimes developed in severe epidemics, not only there, but generally in a less violent degree, in our more temperate regions. It is the pest and scourge of the army, exposed as the soldiers are to every variety of hardship, to-day engaged in the fierce strife of battle, and to-night sleeping perhaps on the cold damp ground, with the rain pouring in torrents upon them. In two years and a half the British army lost in Spain nearly 5000 men by this disease. Hundreds of our own army, during the campaign in Mexico, died with it, or returned home only to lay their bones among their kindred. It may be caused by indigestible food, errors in diet, and tainted or impure food, abuse of spirituous liquors, and by taking cold, particularly when the perspiration is suddenly suppressed. Unripe or decayed fruit is also injurious, but fruit perfectly ripe and fresh may be eaten with safety. The disease is more liable to occur in the latter part of the summer, autumn, and fall, and is particularly severe in damp miasmatic and marshy districts.
To those of us, who have formerly been Allopathic physicians, it is refreshing to contrast our present treatment of this disease with our old practice, and if it is pleasant to us, it is much more so to the patient. Under the homoeopathic treatment a death by dysentery when taken in time is exceedingly rare, while in other treatments it is an every-day occurrence. We have seen in this disease, that the mucous membrane of the intestines is highly inflamed, often coming away in shreds, while from the highly inflamed and irritated surface blood is freely discharged. The great object is of course to relieve this irritation and re-establish a natural and healthy action. How is this to be done ? An Allopath would pour into those irritated, inflamed and bleeding bowels, cathartics, mercury, castor-oil, opium, astringents, such as sugar of lead, etc. And as they pride themselves on appreciable doses, the dose would consist of a considerable amount of the drug. A Homoeopath, by remedies acting gently, in obedience to a fixed law, would remove the febrile irritation, control the spasms and severe distress, as we shall hereafter show, gently, yet quickly and effectually.
As a general thing when we have any reason to suppose undigested food may have passed into the intestinal sanal, it is best to commence the treatment with a small dose of Castor-oil and then proceed with the appropriate remedies.
Aconite* is indicated particularly in the commencement, where there is fever, shivering, heat and thirst, and in dysentery, during warm weather with cold nights; attended with rheumatic pains in the head, neck and shoulder.
In the early stage of the disease, Aconite will often be sufficient to break up the attack.
Two drops, or six globules, in a tumbler of water, a table-spoonful every two or three hours.
A powder, or three globules, once in three hours.
After, or in alternation with Aconite, where, in addition to the febrile symptoms, the exacerbation comes on in the afternoon, the patient is restless, the face red, the head hot; colicky, or cutting burning pain, constant urging to stool, and discharge of bloody mucus.
Same as Aconite.
Mercury is one of the most important remedies in the treatment of this disease. Violent tenesmus, straining before and after the evacuation, as if the intestines would be jerked out, which only produces a passage of blood, or of blood mixed with a substance resembling chopped eggs. During the evacuation, colic, nausea, and shivering.
Colocynth is second only to Mercurius in the treatment of most forms of dysentery. The prominent symptoms are bloody stools, fullness and pressure in the abdomen, and particularly, severe griping colic, so violent as to cause the patient to bend double. In most forms of dysentery, where Mercury is required, I have found the griping colic also present indicating Colocynth. In these cases I have generally given them in alternation, two or three hours apart, or even at shorter intervals, if the symptoms are very violent.
A powder, or six globules of the Mercury may be given, and one drop, or twelve globules of Colocynth, mixed in a tumbler of water, a tablespoonful at a dose, given as directed above. These remedies, if their good effect seem to cease, may be followed by two or three doses of Colchicum with advantage.
A very important remedy, particularly in the dysenteries of autumn and after Aconite; or when there is nausea, violent tenesmus and colic, stools, first of a slimy, then a bloody mucus. It may sometimes be indicated in alternation with or followed by Colocynth or Mereury.
One drop in a tumbler of water, a tablespoonful at a dose; or a powder, or six globules, dry on the tongue. Give every two or three hours.
The indications for this remedy are similar to those of Carh.-veg, with which it is generally best to alternate. There is burning pain in evacuating the bowels, rapid prostration, coldness of the extremities, cold breath, putrid and offensive discharge of urine and faeces, often involuntary.
A powder, or six globules, every two hours.
Three drops in a tumbler of water, a tablespoonful every four hours.
v. - Small, frequent evacuations, of bloody slime, with tenesmus, violent cutting about the umbilical region, heat and thirst. Particularly useful when brought on by the heat of summer, or when Arsenic only aggravates the putrid smell of the evacuations.
Same as Arsenic.
Mucus streaked with blood, nausea, vomiting of mucus, shivering and cutting in the bowels.
Two drops, or eight globules, in a tumbler of water, a tablespoonful once in three or four hours.
Constant pressing in the rectum without evacuation, or evacuation of mucus after which tenesmus continues, followed by tensive pressure in the head, heat, thirst, and intermittent pulse.
Same as Pulsatilla.
I have found this a valuable remedy in those very violent cases not relieved by Mercury and Coleynth. Nothing but blood is passed, the pain is intense, and the tenesmus continues even after the stool.
A powder, or three globules, every three hours.
Bryonia and Rhus deserve attention when the disease occurs during the heat of summer, and is occasioned by a chill, or accompanied with rheumatic pain. (See Diarrhoea.)
After other remedies have failed, Sulphur often removes the disease, or arouses the system, so that it is more susceptible to the action of other remedies.
A powder, or six globules, may be given every three hours until three doses have been taken.
The patient should keep in a reclining posture in the bed, and when the disease is violent use the bedpan instead of getting up. The drink should consist of cold water, toast-water, rice, coffee, black tea; and the food, of toast softened in tea, or water, salep, arrow-root, farina, etc. All kinds of animal food and wines should of course be avoided even during the early period of convalescence.