This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
There is a disease which has recently attracted much attention in the medical profession. It is known under the learned name of tabes dorsalis, by which is meant an affection chiefly characterized by wasting of the body. Progressive emaciation is almost the only symptom present excepting slight hectic fever. The disease has its origin in the nervous system, and its generally assigned cause is too early or too frequent addition to venery.
There is a great difference of opinion in regard to what constitutes excess. It varies in different individuals and under different circumstances, as we have already explained in a previous part of our work. It is with this form of intemperance as it is with alcoholic intoxication, people's ideas vary as to what is undue indulgence, and different individuals are affected in diverse ways by the same amount of indulgence. Venereal intemperance, whatever it may be, is the most frequent cause of the sad disorder of which we now speak. It is important, therefore, that the patient should be candid with his medical adviser. Concealment is too often practised, to the detriment of the sufferer, particularly when the indulgence has not only been vicious, but criminal.
It is to be borne in mind that the evil results of excess are not always immediately manifest. The effects do not necessarily at once follow the cause. The connection between the two is, therefore, often overlooked, and a serious medical error is thus committed.
Sexual excess is not the only cause of this disease, but when present always favors its development. The celebrated Dr. Romberg, whose authority in nervous affections none will call in question, says: " Two circumstances have been shown with certainty to predispose to it, namely, the male sex, and the period between the thirtieth and fiftieth year of life. Scarcely one-eighth of the cases are females. The loss of semen has always been looked upon as one of the most fruitful sources of the complaint; but this in itself does not appear to be a matter of much consequence in influencing the disease, as patients who have been laboring under spermatorrhoea for a series of years are much more liable to hypochondriasis and cerebral affections, than to this. But when combined with excessive stimulation of the nerves, to which sensual abuses give rise, it not unfre-quently favors the origin and encourages the development of the disease after it has commenced. When the strength is much taxed by continued standing in a bent posture, by forced marches and the catarrhal influences of wet bivouacs, followed by drunkenness and debauchery, as is so often the case in campaigns, the malady is rife."
Other writers speak still more positively of the intimate relation between this disease and sexual excesses. Every practising physician who has had experience with this fortunately comparatively rare malady must acknowledge that the history of the cases, when accurately obtained, has nearly always pointed to this causation.