Over the many years, diseases have claimed billions of lives. Statistically
speaking, some diseases of a particular name have not claimed many.
But, upon further examination of the topic, one may find that the
statistics are a little skewed by history's linguistics problem.
For instance, what is called a "cold" today was most often
referred to as something completely different many years ago: Coryza...
This is a listing of many of those diseases, but is by no means
all-inclusive. Here you will find 133 diseases and medical terms
once known to our forebears as something else.
Thanks to AFHS Member, Dann Craig, for making this resource available.
For those who wish, a pdf version
is also available to view and print.
ACUTE MANIA: Severe insanity
AQLOTITION: Inability to swallow, frequently found on death certificates
AGUE: Used to define the recurring fever & chills of malarial
AGUE CAKE: A hard tumour or swelling on the left side of the abdomen,
lower than the false rib, resulting from enlargement of
the spleen or liver, and supposed to be the affect of intermittent
ANCOME: Ulcerous swelling, also called Whitlow
BAD BLOOD: Syphilis
BARREL FEVER: Sickness produced by immoderate drinking
BILIOUS FEVER: Fever caused by liver disorder
BILIOOSNESS: Jaundice or other symptoms associated with liver disease
BLACK DEATH: Typhus, or Bubonic Plague
BLACK JAUNDICE: Wiel's Disease
BLACK LUNO: Disease from breathing coal dust, typical of coal miners'
BLOODY FLUX: Dysentery
BLOODY SWEAT; Sweat accompanied by a discharge of blood
BRIGHT'S DISEASE: Bright's disease is a catch-all for kidney diseases/disorders.
It was used as late as 1913, but is no longer used by physicians.
In its acute form, it was often called nephritis.
CAMP FEVER: Typhus
CANINE MADNESS: Hydrophobia, rabies in humans
CANKER RASH: Scarlet Fever, also called Scarlatina
CATARRH: Inflammation of the mucous membrane which caused profuse
running of 'the eyes and nose.
CHILBLAIN: Inflammatory swelling of the hands and feet caused by
exposure to cold.
CHILDBED FEVER: Septic pinioning which sometimes followed the birth
of a child. Also called Puerperal Fever.
CHIN COUGH: Characterized by breathing difficulties, and in its
worst stage, convulsions. Also called Whooping Cough, or Pertussis.
CHLOROSIS: iron deficiency anemia... but also a number of confounding
diseases like leukemia -- that were not recognized at the time.
See also Green Sickness.
CHOREA: Dancing madness; an epidemic characterized by contortions,
convulsions, and dancing. Also called Saint Vitus' Dance
CONGESTIVE FEVER: Malaria
CORYZA: A cold
COSTIVENESS : Constipation
CRAMP COLIC: Appendicitis
CROUP: A congested cough that babies get.
CRETINISM: Congenital hypothyroidism
DANCING MADNESS: An epidemic characterized by contortions, convulsions,
and dancing. Also called Saint Vitus' Dance, or Chorea
DAY FEVER: Fever of a day's duration or coming on in the daytime,
also called sweating sickness
DIPHTHERIA: Infectious disease which could be spread by infected
milk. It was characterized by the production of a systemic toxin
and the formation of a false membrane on the lining of the mucous
membrane of the throat and other respiratory passages, causing difficulty
in breathing, high fever, and weakness. Also called Membranous Croup.
DOCK FEVER: Yellow Fever.
DROPSY: Edema (swelling, fluid buildup in some tissue or cavity)
often caused by kidney or heart disease. Also, congestive heart
DROPSY OF THE BRAIN: Encephalitis
DYSENTERY: Inflammation of the intestinal membrane most often accompanied
by acute diarrhea
DYSPEPSIA: Acid indigestion
DYSURY: Difficulty in urination, accompanied by pain and a sensation
EDEMA: Swelling of tissues
ENTERITIS: Inflammation of the intestines, could also take the form
of Enteric Fever (Typhoid)
ERYSIPHELAS: Skin disease caused by strep infection which devastates
the blood, also called Saint Anthony's Fire
EXCRESCENCE: An unnatural or disfiguring outgrowth of the skin.
EXTRAVASATED BLOOD: Rupture of a blood vessel
FALLING SICKNESS: Epilepsy (a.k.a. Jacksonian Epilepsy; a.k.a. Jackson's
March, so named for President Andrew Jackson who suffered this disease.)
FATTY LIVER: Cirrhosis of the liver
FLUX: Drainage or discharge of liquid from a body cavity.
FLUX OF HUMOUR: Circulation
FRENCH POX: Venereal disease
GALLOPING CONSUMPTION: Pulmonary tuberculosis
GLANDULAR FEVER: Mononucleosis
GLOMERULONEPHRITIS: 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. Also called Protein
GOITER: Noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid gland, visible as
swelling at the front of the neck that is often associated with
iodine deficiency. Common in many hill-folk along the Appalachian
GOUT: A disturbance of uric acid metabolism occurring predominantly
in males, characterized by painful inflammation of the joints, especially
of the hands and feet. Also called Podagra.
GRAVES DISEASE: Disorder of the thyroid gland
GREEN SICKNESS: Anemia, a disease of young women giving the complexion
a greenish tinge. Also called Chlorosis.
QRIPE or LE GRIPPE: Influenza (flu)
GROCER'S ITCH: A cutaneous disease caused by mites in sugar and
HEAT SICKNESS: A condition marked especially by cessation of sweating
and extremely high body temperature, caused by a loss of salt from
the body. Also called Heat Stress.
HEMATEMESIS: Vomiting of blood
HEMATHRIA: Discharge of bloody urine
HEMIPHLEGY: Palsy or paralysis that affects one side of the body.
HIP GOUT: Osteomyelitis
HUMOUR: The term often used to mean blood.
IMPETIGO: A pustular disease of the skin, also called Scrumpox.
JAIL FEVER: Typhus - see Camp Fever above.
JAUNDICE: Condition caused by obstruction of bile and characterized
by yellowness of the skin, fluids and tissues, and by constipation,
loss of appetite, and weakness.
KING'S EVIL: Scrofula, a tubercular infection or tumors of the throat
LA GRIPPE/LE GRIPPE: Flu, also known as Gripe.
LOCK JAW: Tetanus
LUES VENERA: Venereal disease
LUMBAGO: Back pain, or a pain int eh loins and small of back such
as precedes certain fevers.
LUNG FEVER: Pneumonia
LUNG SICKNESS: Tuberculosis
MARASMUS: Progressive emaciation, usually due to severe malnutrition
or protracted intestinal disorders.
MEMBRANOUS CROUP: Diphtheria
MILK LEG: A painful swelling of the leg soon after childbirth, due
to thrombosis of the large veins, (a.k.a. PHLEGMASIA ALBA DOLENS)
MILK SICK: Not actually a disease, but a form of pinioning caused
by cows ingesting leaves of the white snakeroot plant and passing
along the toxin in their milk.
NEPHRITIS: Inflammation of the kidneys, the acute form of Bright's
NEURALGIA: Infection of one or more nerves causing intermittent
but frequent pain.
NEURASTHENIA: Neurotic condition characterized by worry, disturbances
of digestion and circulation, and attributed to emotional conflict
and feelings of inferiority.
PALSY: The loss or defect of the power of voluntary muscular motion
in all or part of the body; paralysis.
PHLEGMASZA ALBA DOLENS: Milk Leg
PHRENITIS: An inflammation of the brain with acute fever delirium;
also inflammation of the diaphragm.
PLEURISY: inflammation of the membrane that covers the inside of
the thorax, accompanied with fever, pain and cough.
POX: Usually referred to syphilis, but also to any unknown disease
that caused sores to appear on the body. A common curse through
the ages was "A pox on you!"
PROTEIN DISEASE: Glomerulonephritis, 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.
PERTOSSIS: Characterized by breathing difficulties, and in its worst
stage, convulsions. Also called Whooping Cough, or Chin Cough.
POTT'S DISEASE: Tuberculosis of the spinal vertebrae.
PUERPERAL FEVER: Septic pinioning which sometimes followed the birth
of a child. Also called Childbed Fever.
PUTRID FEVER: Diphtheria
QUINSY or QUINCY: Severe attack of Tonsillitis resulting in abscess
near the tonsils.
REMITTING FEVER: Malaria
RHEUMATISM: Painful disease affecting muscles and joints, chiefly
the larger joints.
RICKETS: Disease of the skeletal system resulting from a deficiency
of calcium or Vitamin D in the diet, or from lack of sunlight.
SAINT ANTHONY'S FIRE: Skin disease caused by strep infection which
devastates the blood, also called Erysiphelas
SAINT VITUS' DANCE: An epidemic characterized by contortions, convulsions,
and dancing. Also called Dancing Madness, or Chorea
SANGUINEOUS CRUST: Scab
SCARLATINA: Scarlet Fever, commonly referred to as the Canker Rash.
SCARLET FEVER: Disease in which the body is covered with a red rash
first appearing on the neck and breast, and accompanied by a sore
throat. Also called Scarlatina or Canker Rash.
SCIATICA: Rheumatism in the hip.
SCOTOMY: Dizziness or nausea, with dimness of sight.
SCRIVENER'S PALSY: Writer's cramp
SCROFULA: See KINGS EVIL SCRUMPOX: impetigo, a pustular disease
of the skin.
SCURVY: Disease characterized by great debility, a pale bloated
face, and bleeding spongy gums. Usually suffered by people living
confined or on salted meats without fresh vegetables.
SEPTECEMIA: Blood poisoning (from an infection).
SHIPS FEVER: Typhus
SUMMER COMPLAINT: Baby diarrhea caused by spoiled milk
SWEATING SICKNESS: Fever of a day's duration or coming on in the
daytime, also called Day Fever
TOXEMIA OF PREGNANCY: Eclampsia; high blood pressure and seizures.
TYPHOID or TYPHUS: Enteric Fever; an acute infectious fever, characterized
by high fever, dizziness, and headache. Also called Black Death.
TYPHUS: See TYPHOID
ULCERATION: Loss of the surface covering, such as of skin or the
mucous lining of the intestine.
VENESECTION: Bleeding, or blood letting; the opening of a vein for
releasing Bad Humours. Also called Phlebotomy.
WHITLOW: Ulcerous swelling, a boil. Also called Ancome.
WHOOPING COUGH: A highly contagious disease of the respiratory system,
usually affecting children, that is characterized in its advanced
stage by spasms of coughing interspersed with deep, noisy inspirations.
WINTER FEVER: Pneumonia
YELLOW JACKET: Yellow fever