ABSCESS A localized collection of pus buried in tissues, organs, or confined spaces of the body, often accompanied by swelling and inflammation and frequently caused by bacteria
ACUTE MANIA Severe insanity
ADDISON'S DISEASE A disease characterized by severe weakness, low blood pressure, and a bronzed coloration of the skin, due to decreased secretion of cortisol from the adrenal gland. Also known as bronzed skin disease
ADYNAMIA Loss of movement or strength as a result of disease
AGLUTITION Inability to swallow
AGUE Used to define the recurring fever & chills of malarial infection
AGUE-CAKE a hard tumor or swelling on the left side of the abdomen, lower than the false rib, resulting from enlargement of the spleen or liver, and believed to be the effect of intermittant fevers - often Malaria
AMBUSTIO Scalding or burns.
ANASARCA Generalized massive oedema (swelling)
ANCOME Ulcerous swelling
ANTHRACOSIS Lung disease from breathing in coal dust.
APHONIA Laryngitis
APOPLEXY Paralysis due to stroke
ASPHYCSIA / ASPHICSIA Cyanotic and lack of oxygen
ASCITES Collection of fluid in the abdomin, due liver disease or cancer
ATELECTASIS Callapsed lung or lungs
ATROPHY Wasting away (generally from lack of use, i.e. muscles)
BAD BLOOD Syphilis
BARBER'S RASH or ITCH Possibly Impetigo infection of hair folicles from contaminated razor
BARREL FEVER Colloquial ? Illness due to excessive drinking of alcohol
BERIBERI Disease caused by a deficiency of thiamine / vitamin B1
BILIOUS FEVER Hepatitis - general Liver disorder, also sometimes Typhoid, Malaria
BILIOUSNESS Jaundice or other symptoms associated with liver disease; gall bladder. may also have been any upset leading to vomiting bile or just vomiting
BLACKDAMP Asphyxiating gas, mainly carbon dioxide in mines
BLACK FEVER Acute infection with high temperature and dark red skin lesions and high death rate
BLACK JAUNDICE Wiel's Disease; Black Water fever (deadly form of leptospirosis )
BLACK POX Black Smallpox
BLACK VOMIT Vomiting old black blood due to ulcers or yellow fever
BLACKWATER FEVER Dark urine associated with high temperature (deadly form of malaria)
BLADDER IN THROAT Diphtheria (?)
BLOOD POISONING Bacterial infection; septicemia
BLOODY FLUX Bloody stools
BLOODY SWEAT Sweating sickness   (see English Sweate)
BRAIN FEVER Meningitis
BREAKBONE Dengue fever
BRIGHT'S DISEASE Chronic inflammatory disease of the kidneys - Nephritis
BRONZE JOHN Yellow fever
BRUCELLOSIS Infection from contact with animals or animal products that are contaminated with these bacteria. Brucellosis can cause a range of symptoms that are similar to the flu and may include fever, sweats, headaches, back pains, and physical weakness. Serious infections of the central nervous systems or lining of the heart may occur. Brucellosis can also cause long-lasting or chronic symptoms that include recurrent fevers, joint pain, and fatigue - See MILK FEVER
BULE Boil, tumor or swelling
CACHEXY Malnutrition
COCAETHES Semi-permanent or recurring ill health
CACOGASTRIC Upset stomach - indigestion
CACHAEMIA Generally a blood disease or a poisoned condition of the blood
CACOSPYSY Irregular pulse
CADUCEUS Subject to falling sickness or epilepsy
CAMP FEVER Typhus; aka Camp diarrhea
CANINE MADNESS Rabies, hydrophobia
CANKER Ulceration of mouth or lips or herpes simplex
CAISSON DISEASE Decompression sickness (the bends in divers) affected those who worked in caissons (chambers pressurised to keep out water) e.g. for building foundations for bridges under rivers. If they returned to normal pressure too quickly bubbles of nitrogen would form in their joints and tissues causing extreme pain, cramps & paralysis - & long term effects.
CATALEPSY Seizures / trances
CATARRHAL Nose and throat discharge from cold or allergy
CEREBRITIS Inflammation of cerebrum or lead poisoning
CHILBLAIN Swelling of extremities caused by exposure to cold
CHILD BED FEVER Infection following birth of a child
CHIN COUGH Whooping cough
CHLOROSIS Iron deficiency anemia; leukemia  ( green fever )
CHOLECYSTITUS Inflammation of the gall bladder
CHOLERA Acute severe contagious diarrhoea with intestinal lining damage
CHOLERA MORBUS Characterized by nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, elevated temperature, etc. Could be appendicitis
CHOREA Disease characterized by convulsions, contortions and "dancing"
COLD PLAGUE Ague which is characterized by chills
COLIC An abdominal pain and cramping
COMMOTION Concussion
CONGESTION Any collection of fluid in an organ, eg Tuberculosis in the lungs
CONGESTIVE CHILLS Malaria with diarrhoea
CONSUMPTION Tuberculosis; Wasting sickness   (read a full page on Consumption)
COSTIVENESS Constipation
CRAMP COLIC Appendicitis
CROP SICKNESS Overextended stomach
CROUP Laryngitis, diphtheria, or strep throat
CYANOSIS Dark skin color from lack of oxygen in blood
CYNANCHE Inflammatory diseases of throat, tonsils or windpipe.
CYSTITIS Inflammation of the bladder
DAY FEVER Fever lasting one day; sweating sickness
DEBILITY Lack of movement or staying in bed
DECREPITUDE Feebleness due to old age
DELIRIUM TREMENS Hallucinations due to alcoholism
DENGUE Infectious fever endemic to East Africa
DENTITION Cutting of teeth
DEPLUMATION Tumor of the eyelids which causes hair loss
DIARY FEVER A fever that lasts one day
DIPTHERIA Contagious disease of the throat
DISTEMPER Usually animal disease with malaise, discharge from nose and throat, anorexia
DOCK FEVER Yellow fever
DROPSY oedema (swelling), abnormal collection of fluids in body cavities, often caused by kidney or heart disease.
DRY BELLYACHE Lead poisoning
DYSCRASY An abnormal body condition
DYSENTERY Inflammation of colon with frequent passage of mucous and blood
DYSOREXY Reduced appetite
DYSPEPSIA Indigestion and heartburn. Heart attack symptoms
DYSURY Difficulty in discharging urine, accompanied by pain and a sensation of heat.
ECLAMPSY Symptoms of epilepsy, convulsions during labour
ECSTASY A form of catalepsy characterized by loss of reason
ELEPHANTIASIS A form of leprosy
ENCEPHALITIS Swelling of brain; aka sleeping sickness
ENGLISH SICKNESS Rickets - weak bone growth due lack of Calcium or vitamin D / sunshine
ENTERIC FEVER Typhoid fever
ENTERITIS Inflammation of the bowels
ENTEROCOLITIS Inflammation of the intestines
EPITAXIS Nose bleed
ERYSIPELAS Contagious skin disease, due to Streptococci with vesicular and bulbous lesions
ERYSIPELAS Contagious infection of the skin and underlying tissue, now known to be caused by group A B-hemolytic streptococcus bacteria. Erysipelas causes affected areas of skin to turn bright red and become slightly swollen. The swollen blotches have a distinct border and slowly expand into the surrounding skin. The lesions are most commonly seen on the face, scalp, hands, and legs. They feel hot to the touch and the patient is feverish. Centuries ago erysipelas epidemics caused severe, often fatal infections (St Anthony's Fire). Today erysipelas is a rather mild and relatively rare infection that clears up rapidly when penicillin or other antibiotics are taken
ERYTHROBLASTOSIS Rhesus disease - destroys blood cells in new born baby if mother has Rhesus antibodies which then pass through the placenta.
EXTRAVASATED BLOOD Rupture of a blood vessel, blood not in the normal circulation.
FATTY LIVER Cirrhosis of liver
FITS Sudden attack or seizure of muscle activity
FLUX An excessive flow or discharge of fluid like hemorrhage or diarrhea
FLUX OF HUMOUR Circulation
GALLOPING CONSUMPTION Pulmonary Tuberculosis
GATHERING A collection of pus
GOITER A noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid gland, visible as a swelling at the front of the neck, that is often associated with iodine deficiency.
GOUT An inflammation, often a disturbance of uric-acid metabolism occurring predominantly in males, characterized by painful inflammation of the joints, especially of the feet and hands.
GREAT POX Syphilis
Anemia ( chlorosis ) often a disease of young women giving the complexion a greenish tinge.
GRIPPE / GRIP Flu or Influenza like symptoms
GROCER'S ITCH Skin disease caused by mites in sugar or flour
HEART SICKNESS Condition caused by loss of salt from body
HEAT STROKE Body temperature elevates because of surrounding environmental temperature and body does not perspire enough to reduce temperature. Coma and death result if not reversed
HEMATEMESIS Vomiting blood
HEMATURIA Bloody urine
HEMIPLEGY Paralysis of one side of body
HIP GOUT Osteomyelitis, a staph infection
HORRORS Delirium tremens
HYDROCEPHALUS Enlarged head, water on the brain
HYDROTHORAX Dropsy in chest - Accumulation of fluid in one or both pleural cavities
HYPERTROPHIC Enlargement of organ, like the heart
IMPETIGO Contagious skin disease characterized by pustules
INANITION Physical condition resulting from lack of food
INTESTINAL COLIC Abdominal pain due to improper diet
JAUNDICE Condition caused by blockage of Bile duct, Liver problems, Hepatisis, causing yellowing of eyes, skin and mucus membranes. ( icterus )
KING'S EVIL Scrofula, a tubercular infection of the throat lymph glands; also sometimes syphilis
LA GRIPPE Flu; influenza
LOCKJAW Tetanus or infectious disease affecting the muscles of the neck and jaw. It is fatal if untreated
LUNG FEVER Pneumonia
LUNG SICKNESS Tuberculosis
LUES VENERA Venereal disease; syphilis
LUMBAGO Back pain
LUNG FEVER Pneumonia
LUNG SICKNESS Tuberculosis
LYING IN Time of delivery of baby
MANIA Insanity
MARASMUS Progressive wasting away of body, like malnutrition
MARSH MIASMA believed early term for Malaria ( sometimes called paludal poison)
MENINGITIS Inflammation of brain or spinal cord
METRITIS Inflammation of uterus or purulent vaginal discharge
MIASMA Poisonous vapors thought to infect the air
MILK FEVER Disease from drinking contaminated milk, like undulant fever or brucellosis
MILK LEG Phlebitis; a painful swelling of the leg soon after childbirth, due to thrombosis of the large veins; Painful swelling of the leg beginning at the ankle and ascending or at the groin and extending down the thigh... its usual cause is infection after labor; Post partum thrombophlebitis
MILK SICKNESS Disease from milk of cattle which had eaten poisonous weeds
MORMAL Gangrene
MORPHEW Scurvy blisters on the body
MORTIFICATION Gangrene of necrotic tissue; Infection
MYELITIS Inflammation of the spine
MYOCARDITIS Inflammation of heart muscles
NECROSIS Mortification of bones or tissue
NEPHROSIS Kidney degeneration
NEPHRITIS Inflammation of kidneys
NERVOUS PROSTRATION Extreme exhaustion from inability to control physical and mental activities
NEURALGIA Described as discomfort, such as "Headache" was neuralgia in head. Pain along the track of a nerve.
NOSTALGIA Homesickness
OEDEMA   (EDEMA) Nephrosis; swelling of tissues
OEDEMA OF LUNGS Congestive heart failure, a form of dropsy
PALUDAL POISON early name for Malaria
PAROXYSM Convulsion
PEMPHIGUS Skin disease of watery blisters
PERICARDITIS Inflammation of heart
PERIPNEUMONIA Inflammation of lungs
PERITONOTIS Inflammation of abdominal area
PETECHIAL FEVER Fever characterized by skin spotting
PHLEGMASIA ALBA DOLENS Milk Leg - Painful thrombosis of the femoral vein in the leg following childbirth
PHRENITIS Early use: infammation of the brain, with acute fever and delirium.
Later use: infammation of the diaphragm.
PHTHIRIASIS Lice infestation
PHTHISIS Chronic wasting away or an other name for tuberculosis
PLAGUE An acute febrile highly infectious disease with a high fatality rate
PLEURISY Any pain in the chest area with each breath, more specifically inflammation of the membrane that covers the inside of the thorax, accompanied by fever, pain and cough.
POTTER'S ASTHMA Fibroid Phthisis - pthisis
POTT'S DISEASE Tuberculosis of spine (more)
PROTEIN DISEASE Gomerulonephritis; 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
PUERPERAL EXHAUSTION Death due to childbirth
PUERPERAL FEVER Elevated temperature after giving birth, septic poisoning which sometimes followed the birth of a child, sometimes onset associated with the mother's first lactation (first milk flow).
PUKING FEVER Milk sickness
PUTRID FEVER Diphtheria.
QUINSY    QUINCY Severe complication of tonsilitis which results in abscess near the tonsils.
Before antibiotics available could be fatal. more on Peritonsillar abscess
RHEUMATISM Any disorder associated with pain in joints
RICKETS Disease of skeletal system resulting from a deficiency of calcium or vitamin D in the diet, or from lack of sunlight
ROSE COLD Hay fever or nasal symptoms of an allergy
RUBEOLA     RUBELLA German measles
SCARLATINA Scarlet fever
SCARLET FEVER A disease characterized by red rash
SCARLET RASH Roseola also German Measles
SCIATICA Rheumatism in the hips - now pressure / damage to sciatic nerve
SCIRRHUS Cancerous tumors
SCOTOMY Dizziness, nausea and dimness of sight
SCREWS Rheumatism
SCRIVENER'S PALSY Writer's cramp
SCROFULA Tuberculosis of neck lymph glands. Progresses slowly with abscesses and pistulas developing. (also King's Evil - read more)
SCRUMPOX Skin disease, impetigo
SCURVY Lack of vitamin C. Symptoms of weakness, spongy gums and heamorrhages under skin
SEPTICEMIA Blood poisoning
SHAKES Delirium tremens
SHAKING Chills, ague
SHINGLES Viral disease affecting nerves - with skin blisters
SIRIASIS Inflammation of the brain due to sun exposure
SLOES Milk sickness
SMALL POX Contagious disease with fever and blisters
SOFTENING OF BRAIN Result of stroke or hemorrhage in the brain, with an end result of the tissue softening in that area
SORE THROAT DISTEMPER Diphtheria or quinsy (quincy)
SPANISH INFLUENZA Epidemic influenza
SPASMS Sudden involuntary contraction of muscle or group of muscles, like a convulsion
SPINA BIFIDA Deformity of spine
SPOTTED FEVER Either typhus or meningitis
SPRUE Tropical disease characterized by intestinal disorders and sore throat
ST. ANTHONY'S FIRE Also erysipelas, but named so because of affected skin areas are bright red in appearance
ST. VITAS DANCE Ceaseless occurrence of rapid complex jerking movements performed involuntary ( Chorea )
STOMATITIS Inflammation of the mouth
STRANGURY Rupture, or slow painful urination, caused by muscular spasms of the urethra and bladder
SUDOR ANGLICUS Sweating sickness or "The English Sweate" (more about Sweating Sickness)
SUMMER COMPLAINT Diarrhea, usually in infants caused by spoiled milk
SUNSTROKE Uncontrolled elevation of body temperature due to environmental heat. Lack of sodium in the body is a predisposing cause
SWAMP SICKNESS Could be malaria, typhoid or encephalitis
SWEATING SICKNESS Infectious and often fatal disease common to UK in 15th century.
Between 1485 and 1551 there were a series of epidemics across the country, the outbreak of 1528 being the worst, killing tens of thousands. This is NOT the Plague (bubonic fever) - Even today medical historians do not know what the disease was - symptoms: no rash or scabs, starts suddenly with a feeling of fear or apprehension, cold shivers for a short time followed by hot sweats for a few hours, head and limb aches, delirium, rapid pulse, exhaustion & collapse. Surviving this illness did not give immunity against future infection. (more)
TEETHING tooth infections with inflammation
TETANUS Infectious fever characterized by high fever, headache & dizziness. ( Lockjaw )
THROMBOSIS Blood clot inside blood vessel
THRUSH Childhood disease characterized by spots on mouth, lips and throat
TICK FEVER Rocky mountain spotted fever
TOXEMIA OF PREGNANCY Eclampsia ( very high blood pressure - fits )
TRENCH MOUTH Painful ulcers found along gum line, Caused by poor nutrition and poor hygiene
TUSSIS CONVULSIVA Whooping cough, Pertussis
TYPHUS Infectious fever characterized high fever, headache, and dizziness
VARIOLA Smallpox
VENESECTION Bleeding by the opening of a vein for letting blood, ( phlebotomy )
VIPER'S DANCE St. Vitus Dance
WATER ON BRAIN Enlarged head
WHITE PLAGUE Consumption Tuberculosis   (read more about Consumption)
WHITE SWELLING Tuberculosis of the bone    (more info on tubercle bacillus)
WHITLOW Ulcerous swellings, a boil ( also ancome )
Tussis Convulsiva (early name, now Pertussis) more info on Whooping Cough
WOMB FEVER Infection of the uterus.
WORM FIT Convulsions associated with teething, worms, elevated temperature or diarrhea
YELLOWJACKET Yellow fever.
Copyright GenProxy NetProxy © 2000

An aged Great Aunt gave us her copy of Riverius Reformatus ( Practise of Physick ) published in 1706, an English translation of an earlier Latin text by Lazare Reviere 1589 - 1655.  Many of the illnesses & diseases in the book are recognisable as the same that we suffer today, but the names are somewhat different and the remedies often bizarre and frightening.
This Great Aunt was a district nurse in the Yorkshire Dales during the 1920's - we hope she didn't use cures or medicines from Riverius Reformatus on her patients ! !

The following list of ailments will hopefully be of use to Genealogists and Family Historians in understanding some of the strange medical terms and disease names used in old documents, hospital records and death certificates.

This list of archaic medical terms and meanings used in various English speaking countries is by no means exhaustive and should be extended as time allows, old clinical names & descriptions of symptoms are derived from a number of sources, including the "Riverius Reformatus" and the famous "Principles and Practise of Medicine" 1892 by Doctors Sir William Osler & Thomas McCrea.