Chronic rheumatism is a disease attacking persons of middle age, or after, and is seen more commonly in poor, hard working individuals who have been exposed to cold and damp, as laborers and washerwomen. Several of the larger joints, as the knees, shoulders, and hips, are usually affected, but occasionally only one joint is attacked. There is little swelling and no redness about the joint; the chief symptoms are pain on motion, stiffness, and tenderness on pressure. The pain is increased by cold, damp weather, and improved by warm, dry weather. There is no fever. The general health suffers if the pain is severe and persistent, and patients become pale, dyspeptic, and weak. The disease tends rather to grow worse than recover, and the joints, after a long time, to become immovable and misshapen. Life is not, however, shortened to any considerable degree by chronic rheumatism. Heart disease is not caused by this form of rheumatism, although it may arise from somewhat similar tendencies existing in the same patient. It may be distinguished from other varieties of rheumatism by the fact that the larger joints are those attacked, and also by the age of the patients and general progress of the disease. It very rarely follows acute rheumatism.
Treatment. The treatment of chronic rheumatism is generally not very successful unless the patient can live in a warm, dry climate the year round. Painting the joint with tincture of iodine and keeping it bandaged in flannel affords some relief. The application of a cold, wet cloth covered with oil silk and bandage, by night, also proves useful. Hot baths at night, Turkish baths, or special treatment conducted under the supervision of a competent medical man at one of the hot, natural, mineral springs, as those in Virginia, often prove of great value. Rubbing and movement of the joints is of much service in all cases; any liniment may be used. Drugs are of minor importance, but cod liver oil and tonics may be required. These should be prescribed by a physician.