This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol1", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
In epilepsy, they may be tried under similar circumstances; but little reliance can be placed upon them for the cure; as this fearful malady has roots much deeper than an impoverished condition of the blood.
Carcinomatous diseases are often usefully treated with iron, which, if it does not correct the tendency to the malignant growth, at least serves, in some measure, to support the system under its exhausting influence, and probably contributes at once to render the patient more comfortable, and to lengthen life.
Mr. Henry Behrend, of Liverpool, has employed iron in primary syphilis, and, upon comparing the results with those following the use of mercury, gives to the chalybeate treatment a decided preference; as it appears to be equally effectual, leaves the system in a healthier condition, and is not followed by the occurrence of secondary symptoms. He employs the tartrate of iron and potassa. (London Lancet, Am. ed., March, 1857, p. 219.) The reader will please to understand that this statement, in regard to the relative efficiency of the chalybeates and mercurials in syphilis, is made solely on the authority of Mr. Behrend.
In the special diseases of various organs, attended with anaemia, iron is a most valuable adjuvant.
In Chronic hepatitis, or the shattered state of system left behind by it. the chalybeates are very useful. Invalids from tropical climates often find their health greatly promoted, or quite restored by a residence at chalybeate springs, and by the use of the waters, especially when, as in the case of the Cheltenham waters in England, the iron is associated with saline laxatives. I am disposed to think that the chalybeate, in these cases, does good also by a direct tonic action on the liver. A similar combination of iron and saline laxatives, with the various pleasures of a watering place, is among the most effectual means of cure in certain cases of jaundice, which, having yielded in a great degree to other measures, continue afterwards to resist for a long time the best, directed efforts of the physician.
In enlarged spleen, attended with anaemia, and especially when originating under miasmatic influence, the preparations of iron arc highly useful; and, in conjunction with quinia and purgatives, offer the best means of curing that often very obstinate affection. Iron is thought to act specially on the spleen as an astringent, and, as before stated, is said to reduce the bulk of that organ in animals which are kept under its use for some time.
In organic diseases of the heart, the attendant anaemia serves often to aggravate the affection, by sustaining an excessive action of the organ. The functions, defectively supplied with blood, call on the nervous centres, and they, in obedience to the call, stimulate the heart, in order to supply, by the rapidity with which the blood is sent, the deficiency in its quality. The flaccidity of the heart, too, in anaemia, renders it more expansible by the forces to which it is subjected. Hypertrophy is aggravated by the former influence, and dilatation by the latter. Without being able to cure either of these conditions, the preparations of iron. by improving the state of the blood, may tend to moderate or control the increase of both; and, in the case of dilatation, may possibly, by their tonic and astringent action on the tissue, even favour a contraction of the organ.
Bright's disease of the kidneys is almost characteristically attended with anaemia, which contributes to the accompanying dropsy, and. when the affection consists in fatty degeneration of the organ, fatally promotes the evil by lowering the vital forces which best resist that destructive process. Iron is here indispensable, and acta powerfully, in aid of cream of tartar and digitalis, in the relief, and sometimes in the cure of the complaint.
Diseases of the genital organs, with anaemia, are occasionally benefited by the chalybeates. Independently of their influence on the blood, they may act as tonics on the organs, and by some are supposed to exercise over them a special influence, peculiarly over the uterus. They have not unfrequently relieved sterility in women; and the story is told that they first came into vogue by curing the son of an ancient monarch of impotence. Their supposed powers in spermatorrhoea, leucorrhoea, and the passive forms of monorrhagia have already been noticed. In amenorrhoea, they are among the remedies most relied on. Combined with aloes, they probably restore the suppressed, or increase the deficient menses, in a greater number of cases than any other medicine, or asso-ciation of medicines. Some suppose them to act as a direct emmena-gogue; others, merely by improving the blood. It is probable that they have no specific emmenagogue power, and that their main influence is owing to the change they produce in the blood; but, nevertheless, they probably tend, by their tonic power, to which the uterus seems peculiarly susceptible, to put that organ in a healthy condition when relaxed or debilitated, and thus enable it to perform its functions duly. In this way, they may be readily conceived to be emmenagogue in one instance. and to relieve excessive menstruation or uterine hemorrhage in another.
It remains only to consider the chalybeates in their relation to diseases consisting in a depraved condition of the blood, as distinct from a mere deficiency of one of its normal ingredients. Such a condition exists in many low febrile diseases, and is supposed by not a few to be the main pathological lesion in those affections. The corpuscles are not essentially deficient in quantity here, but they, as well as the fibrin, are supposed to be diseased, poisoned probably by the absorbed cause of the fever. Now, it is not an improbable supposition that iron, so useful in the construction of the red corpuscles, may also possess some efficacy in their repair. Hence, it has recently been introduced into use as a remedy in some of these affections Attention was some years since prominently called to this application of iron by Dr. Bell, of Edinburgh, who spoke in the highest terms of the efficacy of the tincture of the chloride in erysipelas. His practice has been imitated by many others, not only in this complaint, but in some of analogous character, particularly scarlatina and diphtheria.
But it is probably in the passive hemorrhages, that the chalybeates prove most useful upon the principle of action now under consideration. Though operating in these diseases also by their astringency, they owe the great efficacy which they sometimes evince much more to their influence on the blood. In the class of hemorrhages here referred to, the red corpuscles, though not wanting in amount, are apparently diseased, and unable to supply that stimulus to the capillaries which is essential to the rapport of their healthy vital contractility, while the plasticity of the fibrin is so much diminished that it coagulates imperfectly. Hence the vessels allow the escape of blood; and the means of spontaneous cure possessed in other kinds of hemorrhage, through the ready coagulability of the fibrin, are deficient or wanting there. The chalybeates have a tendency to correct this condition, by improving the character of the corpuscles, and probably also, indirectly, that of the fibrin; as there is every reason to suppose that this principle proceeds in part from the corpuscles, and must therefore partake of their qualities. Iron may be given in any hemorrhage of this kind; but it has probably proved, upon the whole, most efficacious in menorrhagia.