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Degenerations of Organs and Parts



The organs of the body, the more active especially, though none are actually exempt, are apt to undergo actual change of structure, so as to have their minute and elementary structure transformed into new and unnatural structure, the function of the organ being thereby deranged. When these changes occur the word degeneration is generally employed to express the change. The degenerations are rather numerous, and they are very im portant in relation to life. Without being detected or known by the person subjected to them, they are often in progress until they have so far advanced that life is reduced in value, or is even sud denly cut off, in the midst of apparent health. The principal de generative changes are as follow : Fatty and Calcareous. Atheroma. A change of structure most commonly occurring in the heart and arteries, and consist ing of a degeneration of the structures into a peculiar fatty and calcareous, or petrifactive, condition. To this the term atheroma, or atheromatous condition, is technically applied. The structures affected are rendered very brittle and are easily ruptured. Apo plexy, from the rupture of a vessel, is often due to atheroma.

0ssification. — A change developed in the arterial vessels, but not specially confined to them, and consisting of a transformation of active or even elastic structure into inactive bony substance. This change may extend to other parts than the blood-vessels. It may affect the membranes and the muscular structures.

Fibroid Degeneration. In certain structures of the body, the lungs particularly, the elastic connective tissue becomes firm, hardened, and fibrous, causing condensation of structure, and, it may be, compression of neighboring tissues. To this change the word fibroid degeneration is applied.

Lardaceous Amyloid or Waxy Degeneration. A change in which the structure of important organs, such as the liver, un dergoes a transformation into a lardaceous waxy condition. This is called the lardaeeom amyloid or waxy condition of disease.

Fatty and Granular Degenerations. Sometimes active organs, —such as the heart and other muscles of the body, the brain, liver, or kidney, undergo a fatty transformation which renders them liable to tear or rupture, and which greatly impairs their active power. These degenerations are of two kinds, one fatty, in which the elementary parts of the muscle or the cells of the affected organs or centres are transformed into fatty elements; the other granular, in which the natural elements are changed into a granular fatty state, and lose their ordinary functional capa city. These changes become most important when they affect the heart, the liver, or the brain and other portions of the ner vous system. They invariably lead to failure of action on the part of these vital organs, and, as affecting the heart, are frequent causes of sudden suspension of function, of faintness, and even of death.

Cirrhosis. Under various the influence of alco holic drinks particularly, in addition to many of the above named induced changes of structure, there is one particular change of condition to which the liver is especially liable. The connective tissue of the organ is hypertrophied and hardened, and the compressed secreting cells are charged with a yellow coloring stuff or pigment. To this condition the term cirrhosis is applied.

Pigmentation. A degeneration is occasionally met with in which the minute elementary cells of parts or organs are charged with dark pigment. This change has been known to commence on one place in the skin and to extend over the whole of its sur face, producing an actual dark or black skin. The phenomenon is extremely rare.

Specific Degenerations. The different organs and tissues of the body are sometimes affected with special constitutional changes which mark off forms of local disease, also called degenerative. Changes from Syphilitic diseases, from cancer, and from colloid, i.e., gelatinous growth, are of this kind. Scrofulous degenera tions, with and without the specific condition of true phthisical or consumptive affections, tubercle, come under this head.

Tumors and Cysts.

The organs and parts of the body are liable to become the seats of growths which are not necessarily malignant or fatal in character, though they may give rise to inconvenience, and, indi rectly, to serious or fatal obstructions or pressures. Such growths are called non-malignant tumors. Analogous, in some respects to them, are other growths which contain fluid or cheesy-like mate rial within them, and which are called hollow or encysted tumors, or cysts. The growths which are often seen on the exterior of the body, which occasionally grow to a large size, and are vulgarly called " wens," are of this encysted or cystic character.

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