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A Night with Venus, a Lifetime with Mercury | The Hospitalist

Until the discovery of antibiotics syphilis was a chronic and, for about half of those infected, ultimately fatal disease. Did mercury actually cure syphilis?

The Appalling Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

Who knows. When one looks at the natural progress of the disease, going from the primary stage to the latent stage probably gave the illusion of a cure. And it is rather hard to believe that very many of the recipients of the cure were able to claim with certainty that they were never again exposed to the possibility of a new infection.

The side effects of mercury poisoning seem to be what drew the attention of the medical establishment. Other interesting side effects were bleeding gums, loose teeth, the lips taking on a grey color, chest pain, and kidney damage.

Syphilis: “A Night With Venus, and a Lifetime with Mercury”

Some novelists say that the mercury caused the teeth to turn grey. This may or may not be accurate. Switching from epidemiology back to the Age of Sail, medicine in the fleet was an interesting hodge podge of socialized medicine and private enterprise.

“ A Night with Venus , a Lifetime with Mercury ” Syphilis – The Overlooked Disease

A surgeon was under no obligation to treat a seaman with venereal disease, but he was allowed to charge for the treatment. Tagged as blue mass , mercury , mercury calomel , Naval Medicine , syphilis , william beatty. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account.

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Because of its prevalence, both physicians and surgeons treated syphilitic patients. Unfortunately, the side effects could be as painful and terrifying as the disease itself. Many patients who underwent mercury treatments suffered from extensive tooth loss, ulcerations and neurological damage. In many cases, people died from significant mercury poisoning. Given the nature of syphilis, as well as its therapeutic alternative, it is not a surprise that many people developed a phobia of the disease.

A night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury: a case of multiple intracranial aneurysms.

Many of these hypochondriack have come to [me]. They commonly went away…unsatisified, nor could they quiet their minds till they found some undertake that would comply with them.


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When a surgeon or physician failed to provide the desired diagnosis, syphilophobes often turned to quacks, who frequently traded on the fears of their patients.