Progressive Muscular Atrophy.
This condition is a commoner one than it is at first supposed. Although in the earlier stages it is amenable to treatment, in the latter stages it is usually pronounced incurable. At the onset of the trouble, the condition is simply one of weakness. This is followed in a short time by a shrinkage sometimes of a single muscle, and at other times of a group of muscles. It sometimes involves a finger or a thumb, and at others the entire arm, notably the right arm.
The rapidity with which the atrophy progresses depends much upon the cause. Males suffer from this much more often than females. In the later stages the muscles of the arms become much reduced in size. There is almost complete loss of strength, with trembling and uncertainty in its action; cramps and spasmodic contractions may follow.
While the condition is ordinarily one of simple atrophy, at other times the muscular fibre is replaced by granular, fatty or waxy substance. The appearance of the muscle, in the simple form, is much the same as in health, except the anemic appearance.
It is difficult to locate the cause of this condition. It is undoubtedly due to a degeneration of the spinal cord, induced by cold, general exhaustion or over muscular work. It should be recognized early and all available measures should be used for its immediate relief. The best means are nutritious and stimulant tonics, with iron and arsenic. Arsenic is considered a very good remedy, Where an alterative and tonic are both needed, the iodide of iron is available. But the most serviceable treatment will be the Faradic current in those cases where the nerve centers are not seriously complicated, and the continuous current where the fault is located in the spinal column or in nerve centers. I had a notable experience with a one armed freight conductor. I was enabled to diagnose the condition early. I enjoined rest. I treated him almost exclusively with the Faradic current. This was persisted in for two or three months with an almost complete cure.
Ellingwood's Therapeutist, Vol. 2, 1908, was edited by Finley Ellingwood M.D.