Determining the Cause


In the treatment of any condition we are constantly told that we must remove the cause. I believe the first thing to do is to find the cause. This is not easy at all times. I will cite two instances, in one of which I failed and in the other succeeded.

A young married lady called upon me about two months ago with the statement that she was suffering from bloody flux. She said she was having from ten to a dozen evacuations daily. As dysentery is very rare here in northern Iowa, and as I had previously seen a great deal of it in the South, where we always traced it to a poor water supply, my first question was, "What is the character of your drinking water?" "is very bad," she replied. What was more natural than for me to jump at the conclusion that the disease was caused by the bad water? So I advised her that if no other water could be secured she was to boil the water, filter and cool it and keep it perfectly clean until consumed. I gave her the following prescription:

Magnesium sulphate drs. 4
Acid sulphuric aromatic drs. 3
Tincture opii deod . drs. 3
Aqua, q. s., ad ozs. 4

Mix. Take a teaspoonful in sweetened water every three or four hours until the passages decreased in number, then at longer intervals. The patient carried out the above treatment faithfully for a week with no results whatever, very much to my surprise. This was the first time I was ever so unsuccessful in the treatment of this disease. I then did what I should have done in the first place. I went very much more particularly into the cause of the disease. I asked her if her husband drank the same water she had and if he was affected likewise. She replied that he drank the same water but that he was in no way affected. I then asked her if there was anything in their diet or in their drinking that she partook of that her husband did not. She replied, "Yes, milk, only milk. I am very fond of milk and he does not take any at all." I then found that they had two cows and that both of these cows were sick with what was known as the pink eye, and had been so all the time that she had been suffering from this disease. Here, then, was the cause. I advised her to drink no more milk; to drink only water, when without any medicine she recovered in three days, because the real cause was finally found and removed.

My next case was that of arthritis in a boy twelve years of age. The pain in his joints was most excruciating. Upon careful inquiry I found that he had never had rheumatism, that he had previously been in good health, but that a few days before he had had a mild attack of sore throat with the appearance of a few red spots on the surface of the body. I concluded that he had been suffering probably from a mild form of scarlet fever and that the arthritis was infectious in character from this cause. I gave him a saline laxative in the morning before breakfast and the following prescription:

Echafolta oz. 1
Elixir sodium salicylate drs. 2
Aqua, q. s. ad ozs. 4

Mix. Take a teaspoonful in water every two hours when awake. The above treatment destroyed the scarlet fever poison in five days and another case which in the past has been classed as inflammatory rheumatism was cured because the cause was found and removed.

Ellingwood's Therapeutist, Vol. 2, 1908, was edited by Finley Ellingwood M.D.