Scrofula, a blood disease manifesting itself in a great variety of organs, and characterized when fully developed by the presence of a peculiar unorganized matter termed scrofulous. The name is supposed to be derived from the Latin scrofa, a sow, that animal being regarded as especially liable to tumors of a similar character. It was called struma by Celsus, Pliny, and other Latin writers, from struere, to heap up. The disease is transmitted from parent to child, though like other hereditary diseases it frequently passes over one generation to attack the next. It is closely allied to pulmonary consumption; consumptive parents have often a scrofulous or strumous progeny, and vice versa. A damp cold atmosphere is favorable to its development, while it is probable that overcrowding and want of ventilation, aided by unwholesome and insufficient food, may originate it de novo. When the predisposition to the disease exists, everything that tends to depress the vital forces exercises an unfavorable influence. - The scrofulous habit, when strongly marked, is easily recognized.
If the skin be fair, the complexion is often peculiarly brilliant, but the color seems laid on in one large patch, leaving the surrounding skin of an unnatural whiteness; the wings of the nose are thick, the upper lip often swollen, and the lips become cracked and rough on exposure to cold. The skin is unusually delicate and irritable; the patient suffers very readily from chilblains, and in childhood is more liable than others to. cutaneous diseases. The mucous membranes partake the delicacy and irritability of the skin. The edges of the eyelids are apt to be red and swollen; the eye is very liable to be attacked by a peculiar inflammation (see Ophthalmia); haemorrhage from the nose, cold in the head, and enlarged tonsils are frequent. The muscles commonly want firmness, and the whole system is deficient in stamina. Sometimes the scrofulous diathesis is marked by a dark complexion, a rough, dry skin, and a pasty, unhealthy look; the movements are sluggish, the habit of body indolent, and the intellect dull. When scrofula is fairly developed, its essential element is the deposition of an unorganized, brittle material, generally of the consistence of new cheese.
In the lungs the presence of this matter constitutes tubercular consumption; in the mesenteric glands, tabes mesente-rica; in the arachnoid membrane of the brain, acute hydrocephalus; in the lymphatic glands, bones, etc., scrofula. Scrofula is eminently a disease of childhood, while consumption belongs to a later period; but neither is confined to any age. One of the forms in which scrofula most commonly and earliest shows itself is swellings of the lymphatic glands in various parts of the body, more particularly about the neck. These become enlarged and firmer, and after a time a deposition of the peculiar curdlike matter is found to have taken place in their interior. After a time suppuration occurs, the swellings become softer, and the skin over them assumes a dusky red hue, gradually becomes thinner, and finally bursts, giving outlet to an unhealthy pus mixed with the curd-like deposit of the disease. The ulcers thus left heal slowly and with difficulty, and unless great care is exercised produce deformed cicatrices.
Occasionally, but rarely, scrofulous glands undergo a process of cure without the occurrence of suppuration, the swelling gradually subsiding, and the tuberculous matter, by the absorption of its thinner part, being converted into a chalky concretion. - In the management of strumous infants much can be done to guard against the development of the disease. If the mother be affected, a healthy wet nurse if possible should be employed; the sleeping room of the child should be large and well ventilated; it should be bathed daily, at first in warm, and as it acquires strength in cold water, well dried, and thoroughly rubbed; it should be warmly clothed, and exposed as much as possible to the light and air. As it advances in age, the diet should be simple and digestible, but abundant and nutritious; the child should have reasonable but not excessive exercise, and should be in the open air as much as possible; while if it be, as is frequently the case, bright and precocious, great care should be taken not to stimulate its intellect too early and too much. When the disease shows itself, a residence by the seaside during summer is frequently of service.