Old Disease Names & Their Modern Definitions




California Genealogy and History Archives

Old Disease Names & Their Modern Definitions


Ever wonder what Camp Fever or Auge was?  Ever read an old story and one of the characters had Consumption or maybe Coryza? Well, I have the answers to those questions. Not only are these names interesting and a little funny, they are helpful in determining what might have been happening 100 years or more ago to a relative from our far distant past. Old letters and obituaries will have new meaning, and what Grampa used to talk about with such dreadful sounding words will now become, in some cases, quite comical!

  1. Acute Mania - severe insanity
  2. Addison's Disease - a destructive disease marked by weakness, loss of weight, low blood pressure, gastrointestinal disturbances, and brownish pigmentation of the skin and mucous membranes.
  3. Aphonia - laryngitis
  4. Apoplexy - stroke
  5. Auge - used to define the recurring fever & chills of malarial infection
  6. Biliousness - jaundice or other symptoms associated with liver disease
  7. Black Jaundice (Wiel's Disease) - Black jaundice is a common term for Wiel's Disease. It is quite common in northeast England near mines, farms and sewage and floats about in water. It is caused by a micro-organism and thus is a bacterial infection (of the liver) and not a virus, as in hepatitis. It is carried by rats and secreted in their urine. It is usually not fatal, in present time, to humans. It is, however, rapidly fatal to dogs and cats, who can eventually gain a resistance, but either way can pass it on.
  8. Bright's Disease - Bright's Disease is a catch-all for kidney diseases/disorders
  9. Camp Fever - typhus
  10. Canine Madness - hydrophobia
  11. Carditis - inflammation of the heart wall
  12. Catarrh - inflammation of mucous membrane
  13. Chlorosis - iron deficiency anemia
  14. Chorea (St. Vitus' Dance) - nervous disorder
  15. Commotion - Concussion
  16. Consumption - tuberculosis
  17. Corruption - infection
  18. Coryza - a cold
  19. Costiveness - constipation
  20. Cramp Colic - appendicitis
  21. Croup - spasmodic laryngitis esp. of infants, marked by episodes of difficult breathing and hoarse metallic cough
  22. Death from "teething" - tooth infections with inflammation and cellulitis were clearly important causes of illness and death before there was adequate dentistry.
  23. Domestic Illness - polite way of saying mental breakdown, depression, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or the after effects of a stroke or any illness that kept a person housebound and probably in need of nursing support.
  24. Dropsy - edema (swelling), often caused by kidney or heart disease. Dropsy would be called congestive heart failure today. It is an accumulation of fluid around the heart, for a variety of complex reasons, and one treatment is administration of digitalis (foxglove leaves).
  25. Dyspepsia - acid indigestion
  26. Extravastaed blood - rupture of a blood vessel
  27. Falling Sickness - epilepsy
  28. Flux of Humour - circulation
  29. French Pox - venereal disease
  30. Gout - any inflammation, not just in a joint or extremity, caused by the formation of crystals of oxalic acid when it accumulates in the body. It most often occurs in joints where circulation is poor, and can even cause gallstones or kidney stones. Gout is a disease caused by a buildup of urate or uric acid in the body, which crystallizes out in areas without much rapid blood flow and can cause damage when, for example a toe is stubbed.
  31. Green Sickness - anemia
  32. Hip Gout - osteomylitis
  33. Jail Fever - typhus
  34. King's Evil (Scrofula) - tubercular infection of the throat lymph glands
  35. La Grippe - flu
  36. Lues - syphilis
  37. Lues Venera - venereal disease
  38. Lumbago - back pain
  39. Lung Fever - pneumonia
  40. Lung Sickness - tuberculosis
  41. Mania - insanity
  42. Marasmus - progressive emaciation
  43. Membranous Croup - hoarse cough
  44. Milk Leg - a painful swelling of the leg beginning at the ankle and ascending, or at the groin and extending down the thigh. It's usual cause is infection after labor.
  45. Mortification - infection
  46. Neurasthenia - neurotic condition
  47. Nostalgia - homesickness
  48. Pott's Disease - tuberculosis of the spine with destruction of the bone resulting in curvature of the spine.
  49. Protein Disease - a once relatively common childhood kidney disease that causes the kidney to leak protein. This is a secondary allergic reaction to certain kinds of strep infections.
  50. Putrid Fever - diphtheria
  51. Quinsy - tonsillitis
  52. Remitting Fever - malaria
  53. Sanguineous Crust - scab
  54. Screws - rheumatism
  55. Scrofula - see King's Evil
  56. Septicemia - blood poisoning
  57. Ship's Fever - typhus
  58. Strangery - rupture
  59. Summer Complaint - dysentery or baby diarrhea caused by spoiled milk
  60. Venesection (Bleeding Venesection) - bleeding