This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Family Doctor" book
For our purpose, in this place, it may be said that there are three classes of dropsical troubles: general dropsy (anasarca), superficial local dropsy (ĉedema), and local internal dropsies. After scarlet fever, the kind most likely to come is anasarca, general dropsy. From great weakness and thinness of the blood there often comes ĉdema, or local watery swelling, of the feet. Heart-disease, liver-disease, or kidney-disease will often bring on general dropsy; but, not infrequently, liver-disease will be attended by abdominal dropsy almost alone. Chest dropsy is another local internal form and water in the head another.
For the cure of any of these, the great thing is to find the cause, and remedy it, if possible. Dropsy is often, though of course not always, one of the last results of disease, which itself may have continued for weeks, months, or years. The best hope of its being cured is in those cases in which there is not much else the matter, and when it has not lasted long.
For dropsy as a symptom, when it is right to treat that, physicians give diuretics and purgatives. Of the first may be named cream of tartar, juniper berries, and squills. Cream of tartar (bitartrate of potassium) acts also moderately on the bowels. Another purgative used in this way is jalap, frequently given with cream of tartar. More active is what is called the drastic cathartic, elaterium; which, even in very small dose, will purge severely. All these medicines, indeed the whole treatment of dropsy, ought to come under the judgment of a skilful physician. Such an one, when unsuccessful (as may happen) in reducing dropsy by diuretics and purgatives, may conclude it best to tap the patient; that is, to let out the water by introducing a small tube into the swollen part. This gives immense relief, sometimes permanent. In a certain number of instances the fluid accumulates again, and the operation may have to be repeated. Tapping the abdomen has long been an approved practice; doing the same for effusion in the chest, after pleurisy, has latterly been found suitable in a considerable number of instances; and even water around the heart (pericardial effusion) has been so relieved in some cases within a few years.
Another relieving operation sometimes performed for great watery swelling of the legs and feet is to lance the skin in a good many places, so as to make the water ooze out gradually. When this is done, the parts should afterwards be greased with cold cream or tallow, to prevent inflammation, which might become erysipelatous and troublesome.