Sunday, February 3, 2008

What the &*%^$ Do We Know

I have an interest in old stuff. Pretty much anything old actually. I'm very easily amused. I have a pair of tableknockers. Bonus points for you if you know what those are. Amongst my antiquities are a Dick Tracy camera, a Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder badge, a gold and agate pendant (with a place for hair on the back side) made by the jeweller to Queen Victoria, and a few old books. Nothing I own is of great value except to collectors of those items, but to me they are interesting.

I was at the medical library in town one day several years ago, researching MS, and discovered a shelf of books being sold by the library. There was an almost entire set of medical encyclopedias and several other texts that grabbed my attention. $2. a volume....hmmmm. I bought the encyclopedia set, missing Volume 1 (so as long as I don't get arthritis I should be OK), and a couple of other books, then raced home before the library changed its mind.

The Encyclopaedia Medica was printed in 1901. The first thing I did was look up Multiple Sclerosis. It said See Paralysis. So over to that volume. and I found what I was looking for under Disseminated Sclerosis. Here's some of what they say:
-young adults are the most commonly affected between the ages of 20 and 30.
- it is quite exceptional for the disease to commence later than 40 (in 1900 only 50% of children born could expect to live to 50) or in children.
-one sex is as liable to be affected as the other.
--cause suspected included metallic poisoning, alcohol, fevers such as those induced by malaria and influenza, blows and injuries, exposure to cold and chills (the author points out the impossablity of proving these things as a cause of the disease, but points out that they definitely influence the course of the disease)
-pregnancy and delivery can exercise an unfavourable influence on the course of the disease.
-fatality is inevitable (though the author points out that nothing is more difficult to foretell than the probable duration of life)
-cases that show a tendency to remission of symptoms live longer.

So here we are more than 100 years later. We know this is mainly a disease with its onset in young adults (age 20-40). We know it occurs in children and in those over 40, but women are 3 times as likely to be affected as men. Pregnancy and delivery can affect the disease.

We still don't know the cause, but all those things listed above can affect the symptoms of the disease.

Treatment in 1901 consisted of the administration of silver in the form of nitrate or chloride and arsenic (!). Massage, hydropathic and electrical treatments are also suggested.

"Massage and passive movements improve the nutrition of the muscles...most patients bear cold badly...rest is essential...daily open air carriage or wheelchair exercise is no less important...depressing emotions, mental or physical fatigue, injury, exposure to wet and cold, and excesses of all kinds must be studiously avoided....female patients must be warned against pregnancy..."

We know that massage, hyrdopathic and electrical treatments can be beneficial. We know that rest is essential (I am the queen of napping).



In the Text Book of Nervous Diseases (published in 1898), it is much the same with a few notable exceptions. This volume says it occurs more frequently in the male sex and that "the sufferers have inheirited a feeble power of resistance on the part of the central nervous system." Treatment is pretty much the same with the added "use of iodide of potassium and bichloride of mercury".

All the things that we knew about the disease back then mostly still hold true today. You might be thinking that we don't know enough. True, we haven't figured out what causes MS and we still don't have a cure. But we understand the disease process much better, we have treatments that can slow down the progression of MS and reduce frequency and severity of relapses, we know that nutrition and exercise can aid in treatment of symptoms.

In university, a big question that students have is "What am I going to do when I grow up?". I used to tell fellow students that it was just as important to know what you didn't want to do as it was to figure out what you did want to do. In the past 100 years we have discovered what doesn't work for MS (like arsenic), and we will continue to make more of those discoveries before we discover what will work.
I just wish it were faster.

S.

9 comments:

LISA EMRICH said...

Shauna, I like to collect old music texts as well as dictionaries. It is interesting to example the differences in theory or presentation over time.

Anne said...

Hi Shauna, My blog posted yesterday addresses some of the treatments in your medical books and how I have adapted them for use in today's world.

Please stop by and visit. Anne
http://disablednotdead-anne.blogspot.com

Shauna said...

Lisa,
I enjoy the differences, too, and wonder sometimes a what the folks 100 years from now will think about us as they review our text books from the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Anne,
I read your blog almost every day now. For many reasons I am attracted to the use of electricity in treating neurological conditions, including MS. I know of people who've had success with TENS treatments for other conditions and I've seen documentaries on the use of electricity for treatment of spinal cord injuries. Though it's not really a treatment that targets the injury or recovery from a disease process, it is a treatment for symptoms of the injury or disease.
If you are having success with your treatments, diet and regimen, I say go for it!

S.

BRAINCHEESE said...

Way cool! What a treasure trove of information!! I absolutely LOVE reading about old remedies and folklore remedies for various diseases as I believe there remain grains of truth in these things...the wisdom of our ancestors may prove full circle in spite of technology.

Linda D. in Seattle

Shauna said...

Linda,
I'm just wondering where I can find an open air carriage...
S.

Charles-A. Rovira said...

Hello Shauna,

its amazing how little the texts have progressed in the last century.

Its also amazing how little, beyond naming a disease or diagnosis after some researcher or doctor, medical science has progressed.

Most of what we know about disease, the cause of a disease and the progression of a disease is less than a hundred years old. (Heck its less than a decade old. [In many cases, its less than a year old.])

What gives me the greatest hope is that what was known, (your brain is fixed from birth, [well from early adult-hood then,] nerves don't regenerate, etcetera,) is proving to be wrong.

It seems that the further ahead we go, the less we want to look back.

Shauna said...

Charles,
I was just speaking with one of the research nurses at the MS Clinic as I'm having an MRI on Sunday and my anniversary neuro check up on Monday. We were discussing the study I've been in for the past 10 years and how pivotal the study has been to determining that early treatment of MS can be beneficial. It might sound trivial in a way, as it is kind of a common sense thing, one would think, but now we have definitive scientific proof of the benefit of early treatment with a DMD.

The changes we wish to see in the treatment of this disease can't go fast enough. However, there have been many discoveries on the cellular level that go unvoiced because they're "little" discoveries. I liken it to putting together a jigsaw puzzle and right now we're collecting up all the blue pieces for the sky. It's a boring part of doing this puzzle, but each piece is important to the whole picture.
You're right about the exciting discoveries of brain plasticity. A few years ago, at an anniversary check up, the neuro determined improvement from the year before. That was several years after my initial attack and I thought I had gotten back everything I was going to get back. I was surprised and pleased as punch that my brain was continuing to heal itself. I wasn't aware that was possible, so long after the attack.
Cool.

S.

Bubbie said...

Great Blog Shauna, and great finds too! I couldn't pass up old books like that either.

Shauna said...

Thanks, Bubbie. I received a notebook today from a coworker. It belonged to her grandmother who was a governess of sorts back n the 30s. The notebook contains her notes from a child care course she took at an Ottawa hospital in 1929. I'll take some pictures of it to post on the blog in the near future.