The Special Troubles of Women (Nov, 1934)
The Special Troubles of Women
by Charles A. Clinton, M. d.
Most of these Functional Troubles Can Be Avoided by Normal Living, Plenty of Exercise and the Building of Bodily Vigor
WITH the exception of certain affections of the generative organs, most diseases are common to both men and women alike. There are, of course, certain conditions which are more commonly found in women than in men and vice versa. Those diseases which are induced by exposure to the elements or by overexertion are naturally more common in men than in women, while other conditions which are induced or made worse by sedentary habits, lack of the proper amount of exercise, etc., are more apt to be found occurring in women. But even this condition does not always apply, because in some countries and among some classes of society the women work as hard and are exposed to the elements as much and in other ways are subject largely to the same conditions as are men. So that when one speaks of the “special” disorders of women one usually means the disorders which affect that portion of the human anatomy which is found only in the female sex, namely, the mammary glands and the female generative organs.
The fact that so many women suffer from pelvic disorders and attribute their symptoms to some other cause, thus unconsciously allowing their pelvic organs to become severely affected, is apt to allow their general health to become greatly impaired and should make it of advantage for all women to recognize some of the symptoms which occur in the early stages of various complaints peculiar to themselves so that they may take proper steps to procure competent advice in the matter.
Of course, the various female organs when affected abnormally produce certain specific symptoms pertaining to the particular organ affected, yet there are a certain number of common symptoms which are generally present in most disorders of the pelvic organs which should give the afflicted person an inkling as to what the trouble may possibly be or at least draw attention to the fact that it may be one of the pelvic organs which is at fault. When only one or two of these symptoms are present it may not be so easy to judge the cause, but when several are present, as is so often the case, they should be of great service in at least suggesting the location of the trouble.
Among these symptoms are headache, especially at the base of the brain, a feeling of pressure on the top of the head, pain or aching at the lower portion of the back over the sacrum, a bearing down feeling in the lower abdomen, flatulence, constipation, irritability, general nervousness, sometimes hysteria, mental depression, attacks of the “blues” and often a certain amount of local discharge. These symptoms are all more or less common in conditions of the ovaries, the Fallopian tubes and the uterus, as well sometimes as the vagina.
When such symptoms occur it is well to have a thorough examination made in order to determine exactly what organ or organs are affected and exactly the amount of disturbance which is present and, if possible, how long it has existed. Then immediate steps should be taken to relieve the existing condition. It is very common when one organ is affected to have other adjacent organs also become affected and so it is of the utmost importance to get proper attention and to apply proper methods as quickly as possible to prevent inflammation or infection spreading from one of the pelvic organs to another. One of the commonest and yet most severe affections is pelvic cellulitis or pelvic peritonitis, which develops from an infection of one or more of the pelvic organs. These diseases are often extremely dangerous and are apt to cause the formation of adhesions which will produce distress or disturbances of various degrees for an indefinite period of time.
FOR some reason or other, women seem to be rather reticent about seeking professional advice for pelvic troubles. Of course in many cases, as mentioned above, they may not attribute their sickness to these local conditions and so may lose valuable time, but in other cases, even though they may feel morally certain that they are suffering from some abnormal state of one or more of the pelvic organs, they hesitate, they procrastinate and they delay seeking advice for so long a period that much unnecessary damage will often be done.
Women, as a rule, have a mortal dread of cancer and of course in some cases this is present as it is fairly common in the pelvis, especially in the uterus, and it is a most serious and most dangerous condition. But with the horrors of cancer in their minds they often hesitate to undergo an examination even though they know something is wrong, for fear that the doctor will tell them that they are suffering from cancer. What short-sighted policy this is! The time to treat cancer with any real hope of success is when it is in its initial stages, and this applies especially to internal cancer. Why delay seeking advice? Why procrastinate—why take chances? A woman who fears cancer should be the very one who should be examined at once and have the matter definitely settled; then should the symptoms prove to be those of cancer something may often be done and results obtained before it is too late. But the fact of the matter is that while some of these cases will be found to be cancer by far the largest number will be found to be non-malignant.
The woman, therefore, who fears cancer and who neglects to be examined and to get a correct diagnosis lives in constant dread and fear that she may be developing a cancer and yet does nothing about it. This naturally has a most devastating effect upon her entire constitution. Her nervous system become seriously affected, she becomes despondent, loses her appetite, loses weight, becomes a burden to herself and her friends and her family and in some cases even becomes mentally affected. In most cases all of this is entirely unnecessary and even in the case where the suspicion of cancer is confirmed and cancer is really found to exist, the sufferer herself will feel at least that now she knows what her trouble is and can take steps to try and eradicate it, something which she would not do before a diagnosis was made. And to the woman who finds her trouble is not cancer but something perhaps fairly easy to eradicate, what a load is lifted from her mind! Yet with all of our preaching women will hold back, delay and lose most valuable time.
The ovaries, Fallopian tubes and the uterus are fairly susceptible to abnormal conditions. Inflammation of these organs may be either acute or chronic. The ovaries may be affected with simple congestion or with inflammatory conditions. Prolapse of an ovary is a fairly common occurrence. Cystic growths are also quite common and may develop to an enormous size. These tumors consist of a sac which becomes filled and distended with a serous fluid. Fibro-cystic tumors consist partly of cystic material and partly of fibrous tissue. Solid tumors of the ovary are not very common although they are of various kinds such as fibroid tumors, sarcomas which are malignant growths, carcinoma or cancer, papilloma, and other varieties.
MOST cases of inflammation of the ovaries are secondary to inflammation of other pelvic organs, such as the vagina, the uterus or the Fallopian tubes. The uterus or womb may become affected in many ways. There may be hypertrophy or enlargement, atrophy or shrinkage, displacement forward or backward, prolapse or falling, and catarrh of the lining of the ^vomb, and this latter condition may involve the entire lining of the uterus, when it is called endometritis, or may involve only the neck of the uterus, in which it is called endocervititis. The entire muscular structure of the womb may become inflamed, producing what is known as metritis. This, however, is not such a very common affection.
Tumors, on the other hand, are fairly common and may form in the interior of the uterus, in the substance of the organ or on the outside. These are usually fibroid in character, although fibro-cysts are also fairly common. In addition, of course, malignant disease may occur and when it does it usually develops in the neck of the womb. This is because lacerations of the neck of the womb are very common during labor and it is at this point that most malignant growths start. It is therefore of the greatest importance to have all lacerations in this locality repaired surgically as soon after labor as is practicable.
A very common growth in the interior of the uterus is what is called a polyp. This is a vascular tumor usually rather small which is attached by a longer or shorter pedicle to the mucous membrane lining that organ. The Fallopian tubes are often subject to very severe inflammation, frequently on account of the extension of infections from the vagina or the uterus, or both. Inflammation of these tubes may be either acute or chronic. In many cases, especially when infection has occurred, abscess of the tubes develops and should the pus not be discharged into the uterus the result may be rather disastrous as the tubes may become so distended and so thin as to rupture, discharging the pus into the peritoneal cavity. This would of course cause septic peritonitis, and would require immediate operation. The vagina is also frequently affected with various abnormal conditions, such as simple inflammation, catarrhal inflammation, gonorrheal infection and other conditions. The vulva or external genital is sometimes the seat of abscess owing to infection, usually of an important gland which is located therein. Unfortunate, it is yet true, that many women innocently become affected with certain venereal complaints due to the fact that the husband has at some period before marriage become himself infected and though thought to be entirely cured some of the poison of the disease has continued to lurk in some-portion of the generative system and so is transferred by him to his innocent wife.
To my mind it is of the utmost importance to have every prospective bridegroom given a thorough examination and clean bill of health in this respect and perhaps in many other respects before he can be allowed to marry. Often the man himself may not know or suspect that he ever was infected or knowing this has been told that he has been cured and so may infect his wife and cause her untold suffering and possibly produce in her in turn a condition of chronic invalidism.
NOW then, what can be done for women who suffer from these “special” disorders peculiar to their sex in order to make them well again? Of course it must be admitted that there are many cases in which operation of one sort or another may be necessary, but much can be done in many of these cases without operation to bring them back to health. If any of the general symptoms mentioned in the beginning of this article develop they should be signals that all is not right and should serve as notice to at once take steps to eradicate the abnormal condition as quickly as possible and as surely as possible. The various pelvic organs may of course give special symptoms peculiar to themselves. The pain and tenderness may be localized so that the particular organ affected can be recognized. Internal examination by a physician will of course give a specific diagnosis. Pain, swelling, tenderness, leucorrheal discharges, hemorrhages, fever, chills, all have their special significance in certain specific acute or chronic pelvic disorders.
In most acute inflammations, rest in bed and fasting is of the utmost importance. The fasts are to last for a longer or shorter period depending upon the character of the condition and the general vitality of the patient. Sometimes repeated short fasts are better than a long fast. After a fast a fast-breaking diet of fruit juices or vegetable broth is to be given. If the fast has been a short one, one day on this diet is often sufficient, but if the fast has been of many days’ duration two or three days on the fast-breaking diet may be more desirable. After the fast-breaking diet an exclusive milk diet is often of the greatest value.
As to other measures, the taking of hot sitz baths or alternating hot and cold sitz baths is recommended in many cases. If there is much pain, cold sitz baths had better be omitted. Vaginal douches from two to four times daily are advisable in many cases. The douche should be comfortably warm, or in some cases quite hot. They may consist of plain water or water containing boric acid, bicarbonate of soda or some mild antiseptic.
In chronic conditions of the pelvic organs one has to pay a great deal of attention to building up the vitality of the patient. A fast of a few days repeated from time to time is of value, followed of course by a fast-breaking regimen. Exercise adapted to the extent of the condition and the vitality of the patient is given to advantage. Strict attention must be paid to the eliminations from the bowels, the skin and the kidneys. Considerable water is to be drunk and this can be taken between meals. Sun baths, air baths, outdoor walking and some form of light recreation are also good. Rest and relaxation are naturally important and enough sleep is to be obtained. Locally, of course, the treatment varies, according to the condition. For prolapse and displacements of the uterus exercises taken on a slanting table are of the greatest value. The exercises vary according to the particular displacement which is present. If it is a prolapse, lying upon the back on a slanting table, with the head down, may be sufficient, also raising the foot of the bed five or six inches, lying in that position through the night. If the displacement is forward, lying on the back with the head down, taking the exercise in this position, is of course proper, while if the displacement is backward, one lies on a slanting table on the abdomen, with the head down, and takes the exercises in this position.
Some form of catarrhal inflammation of the uterus may require curettage, also some growths may need removal, and of course carcinoma or cancer needs special treatment. Cysts may often be reduced more or less in size by fasting and other measures. Abscesses must be evacuated. Tears of the cervix and perineum need surgical attention. Infections also need specific treatments. The diet is of the utmost importance. It should be light and nourishing and should consist largely of fruits and fruit juices, fresh green vegetables, both raw and cooked, vegetable and fruit salads, cottage cheese, milk and buttermilk, together with some whole-grain products and occasionally figs, raisins, dates, honey and sometimes a few nuts, except peanuts.
VITALITY building measures such as specified above will aid in establishing an improved condition of general health and help to get rid of many pelvic disorders. Spinal manipulation, spinal compresses, ultra-violet, infrared rays and diathermy all have their uses in these conditions. Menstrual disorders require going into very carefully in order to determine the exact cause when proper measures can be taken for the relief. Building up of the body in general, purification of the blood supply and elimination of poisons from the system will do an enormous amount of good and will increase one’s powers of resistance to such an extent that recovery or great relief may be looked forward to as a certainty. Many a woman who is a physical and nervous wreck due to female troubles can, by following out natural methods, both local and general, be remade and can once more feel that life is worth living and that misery, suffering, pain, debility and all the other symptoms which accompany these “special” disorders of women are to be relegated to the past, never to return.