Online Encyclopedia

INFLUENCES WORKING FOR EVIL UPON THE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V20, Page 917 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
INFLUENCES WORKING FOR EVIL UPON THE ORGANISM (I) Malnutrition.—When the blood supply is entirely cut off from a tissue the tissue dies, and in the act of dying, or after-wards, it suffers certain alterations dependent upon its surroundings. Thus, when the circulation to an external part is obstructed completely, as in the case of a limb where the main artery has been occluded and where the anastomatic communi-cations have not sufficed to continue the supply of blood, the part becomes gangrenous (fig. 24, Pl. II.); that is to say, it dies and falls a prey to the organisms which excite putrefaction, just as would happen to any other dead animal tissue were it unconnected with the body. Fermentative changes are set up in it, characterized by the evolution of gas and the formation of products of suboxidation, some of which, being volatile, account for the characteristic odour. In the formation of these the tissues break down, and in course of time lose their characteristic histological features. The blood suffers first; its pigment is dissolved out and soaks into the surroundings, imparting to them the pink hue so diagnostic of commencing gangrene. Muscle and white fibrous tissue follow next in order, while elastic tissue and bone are the last to show signs of disintegration. The oil separates from the fat-cells and is found lying free, while the sulphuretted hydrogen evolved as one of the products of putrefaction reacts upon the iron of the blood and throws down a precipitate of sulphide of iron, which in course of time imparts to the limb a range of colour commencing in green and terminating in black. The temperature at which the limb is kept, no doubt, favours and hastens the natural process of destruction, so that putrefaction shows itself sooner than would be the case with a dead tissue removed from the body and kept at a lower temperature. Nevertheless, gangrene is nothing more or less than the putrefactive fermentation of an animal tissue still attached to the body. If the amount of liquid contained in the tissue be small in quantity the part mummifies, giving rise to what is known as " dry gangrene." If the dead part be protected from the ingress of putrefactive organisms, however, it separates from that which is living without the ordinary evidences of gangrene, and is then known as an " aseptic slough." Should the portion of tissue deprived of its circulation be contained in an internal organ, as is so often the case where the obstruction in the artery is due to embolism, it becomes converted into what is known as an " infarction." These infarcts are most common in organs provided with a terminal circulation, such as prevails in the kidney and spleen. The terminal branches of the arteries supplying these organs are usually described as not anastomosing but many, if not all, of Cohnheim's end-arteries have minute collateral channels; which, however, are usually insufficient to completely compensate for the blocking that may occur in these arteries, therefore, when one of them is obstructed, the area irrigated by it dies from malnutrition. Being protected from the ravages of the organisms which induce putrefaction, however, it does not become gangrenous; it is only where the obstructing agent contains these organisms that a gangrenous slough follows, or, in the case of the contaminating organisms being of a suppurative variety, ends in the formation of a so-called " pyaemic abscess," followed by rapid dissolution of the dead tissue (fig. 24, Pl. II.). In ordinary circumstances, where the artery is obstructed by an agent free from such organismal contamination, the part becomes first red. This is due to intense engorgement of the vessels brought about through these minute existing collateral channels and results in a peripheral congested zone round the infarct. There may be haemorrhage from these vessels into the tissues. This collateral supply not being sufficient to keep up the proper flow of blood through the part the veins tend to become thrombosed, thus increasing the engorgement. The central part of the obstructed area very soon under-goes degenerative changes, and rapidly becomes decolourized. This necrosed area forms the pale infarct. Absorption of this infarcted zone is carried on by means of leucocytes and other phagocytic cells, and by new blood-vessels. If absorption be not complete the mass undergoes caseation and becomes surrounded by a capsule of fibrous tissue—being sharply cut off from the healthy tissue. Where the malnutrition is the effect of poorness in the quality of the blood, the results are of course more widespread. The muscles suffer at an early period: they fall off in bulk, and later suffer from fatty degeneration, the heart being probably the first muscle to give way. Indeed, all tissues when under-nourished, either locally as the result of an ischaemia, or generally as from some impairment of the blood, such as that prevailing in pernicious anaemia, tend to suffer from fatty degeneration; and at first sight it seems somewhat remarkable that under-nourished tissues should develop fat in their substance (figs. 26 and 27, Pl. II.). The fatty matter, however, it must be borne in mind, is the expression of dissimilation of the actual substance of the proteids of the tissues, not of the splitting up of proteids or other carbonaceous nourishment supplied to them. A part deprived of its natural nerve-supply sooner or later suffers from the effects of malnutrition. When the trigeminus nerve is divided (Majendie), or when its root is compressed injuriously, say by a tubercular tumour, the cornea begins to show points of ulceration, which, increasing in area, may bring about total disintegration of the eyeball. The earliest interpretation put upon this experiment was that the trophic influence of the nerve having been withdrawn, the tissue failed to nourish itself, and that degeneration ensued as a consequence. The subsequent experiments of Snellen, Senftleben, and, more lately, of Turner, seem to show that if the eyeball be protected from the impingement of foreign particles, an accident to which it is liable owing to its state of anaesthesia, the ulceration may be warded off indefinitely. If the eyeball be kept perfectly clean and no organism be admitted from the outside then ulceration will not follow. If, on the other hand, any pathogenic organisms be present the results are disastrous because the tissue, deprived of its nervous trophic supply, has greatly lessened resistance. The bed-sores which follow paralysis of the limbs are often quoted as proof of the direct trophic action of the nerve-supply upon the tissues, yet even here the evidence is somewhat contradictory. Still, there are facts which, for want of a better explanation. we are almost bound to conclude are to be accounted for on the direct nerve-control theory. The common variety of bed-sore is the result of continuous pressure on and irritation of the skin, the vitality and resisting power of which are lowered by a lesion of the cord cutting off the trophic supply to the skin affected. The acute bed-sore is, in some cases, a true trophic lesion occurring, as it may, on parts not subjected to continuous pressure or irritation. Trophic disturbance in the nutrition of the skin may be so great that a slight degree of external pressure or irritation is sufficient to excite even a gangrenous inflammation. Again, a fractured bone in a paralysed limb often fails to unite, while another in the opposite sound limb unites readily, and an ulcerated surface on a paralysed limb shows little healing reaction. A salivary gland degenerates when its nerve-supply is cut off; and the nerves leading up to the symmetrical sloughs in Raynaud's disease have been found in an advanced state of degeneration (Affleck and Wiglesworth). It is just a question, however, whether, even in instances such as these, the nutritional failure may not be explained upon the assumption of withdrawal of the local vasomotor control. There seems to be little doubt, notwithstanding, that one of the chief functions of the nerve cell is that of the propagation of a trophic influence along its axon. When a nerve-trunk is separated from its central connexion, the distal portion falls into a state of fatty degeneration (Wallerian or secondary degeneration). That special trophic nerves, however, exist throughout the body, seems to be a myth. It is much more likely, as Verworn alleges, that the nerves which influence the characteristic function of any tissue regulate thereby the metabolism of the cells in question—in other words, that every nerve serves as a trophic nerve for the tissues it supplies. It is a significant fact that neoplasms contain very few nerve-fibres, even although growing luxuriantly, and there is a doubt whether the few twigs contained in them may not merely have been dragged into their midst as the tumour mass expanded (Young). Overwork.—The effect of overwork upon an organ or tissue varies in accordance with (a) the particular organ or tissue concerned, (b) the amount of nourishment conveyed to it, and (c) the power of assimilation possessed by its cells. In the case of muscle, if the available nourishment be sufficient, and if the power of assimilation of the muscle cells remain unimpaired, its bulk increases, that is to say, it becomes hypertrophied. It may be advisable to define exactly what is meant by " hypertrophy," as the term is often used in a loose and insignificant sense. Mere enlargement of an organ does not imply that it is in a state of hypertrophy, for some of the largest organs met with in morbid anatomy are in a condition of extreme atrophy. Some organs are subject to enlargement from deposition within them of a foreign substance (amyloid, fat, &c.). This, it need hardly be said, has nothing to do with hypertrophy. The term hypertrophy is used when the individual tissue elements become bigger to meet the demands of greater functional activity; hyperplasia, if there is an increase in the number of these elements;and pseudo-hypertrophy, when the specific tissue element is largely replaced by another tissue. There are conditions in which we have an abnormal increase in the tissue elements but which strictly should not be defined as hypertrophies, such as new-growths, abnormal enlargements of bones and organs due to syphilis, tuberculosis, osteitis deformans, acromegaly, myxoedema, &c. The enormously long teeth sometimes found in rodents also are not due to hypertrophy, as they are normally endowed with rapid growth to compensate for the constant and rapid attrition which takes place from the opposed teeth. Should one of these teeth be destroyed the opposed one loses its natural means of attrition and becomes a remarkable, curved tusk-like elongation. The nails of the fingers, or the hair of the scalp may grow to an enormous length if not trimmed. True hypertrophy is commonly found in the hollow muscular organs such as the heart, bladder and alimentary canal. As any obstruction to the outflow of the contents throws an increased amount of work on the walls, in order to overcome the resistance, the intermittent strain, acting on the muscle cells, stimulates them to enlarge and proliferate, fig. 28, P1. II., and gives rise to adaptive hypertrophy. Should there be much loss of tissue of an organ, the cells of the remaining part will enlarge and undergo an active proliferation (hyperplasia) so that it may be made up to the original amount. Or again, in the case of paired organs, if one be removed by operation, or destroyed by disease, the other at once undertakes to carry on the functions of both. To do so a general enlargement takes place until it may reach the size and weight equal to the original pair. This is known as compensatory hypertrophy. Examples of physiological hypertrophy are found in the ovaries, uterus and mammary glands, where there is an increased functional activity required at the period of gestation. Local hypertrophy may also be due to stimulation resulting from friction or intermittent pressure, as one may see in the thickenings on the skin of the artisan's hands. The extreme development of the muscles in the weight-lifting athlete and in the arm of the blacksmith is the result of increased functional activity with a corresponding increase in the vascular supply; this exercise may produce an over-development so excessive as to be classed as abnormal. In atrophy we have a series of retrograde processes in organs and tissues, which are usually characterized by a progressive diminution in size which may even end in their complete disappearance (fig. 29, Pl. II.). This wasting may be general or local—continuously from the embryonic period there is this natural process of displacement and decay of tissues going on in the growing organism. The functions of the thymus gland begin to cease after the second year from birth. The gland then slowly shrinks and undergoes absorption. From atrophy of their roots, caused by the pressure of the growing permanent teeth, the " milk teeth " in children become loose and are cast off. The ovaries show atrophic changes after the menopause. In old age there is a natural wearing out of the elements of the various tissues. Their physiological activities gradually fail owing to the constructive processes having become so exhausted from long use that the destructive ones are able to overtake them. As the cell fails and shrinks, so does it become more and more unable to make good the waste due to metabolism. This physiological wasting is termed senile atrophy. General atrophy or emaciation is brought about by the tissues being entirely or partially deprived of nutriment, as in starvation, or in malignant, tubercular, and other diseases of the alimentary system which interfere with the proper ingestion, digestion or absorption of food material. The toxic actions produced in continued fevers, in certain chronic diseases, and by intestinal parasites largely aid in producing degeneration, emaciation and atrophy. Atrophy may follow primary arrest of function—disuse atrophy. The loss of an eye will be followed by atrophy of the optic nerve; the tissues in a stump of an amputated limb show atrophic changes; a paralysed Iimb from long disuse shows much wasting; and one finds at great depths of the sea fishes and marine animals, which have almost completely lost the organs of sight, having been cut off for long ages from the stimuli (light) essential for these organs, and so brought into an atrophic condition from disuse. Atrophy may also follow from overwork. Increased work thrown on to a tissue may produce hypertrophy, but, if this excessive function be kept up, atrophy will follow; even the blacksmith's arm breaks down owing to the hypertrophic muscle fibres becoming markedly atrophied. From these causes a certain shrinkage is liable to occur, more evident in some parts of the body than in others. Thus the brain falls off in bulk, and the muscles become attenuated, and in no muscle is this more notable than in the case of the heart. A tendency to pigmentation also develops in certain tissues of the body, such as the nerve and muscle cells. As a result of these various degenerations the functions of the body deteriorate, the faculties become blunted, and the muscular energy of the body is below what it was in earlier life, while the secreting glands in certain instances become functionally obsolescent. Continuous Over-pressure.—The tissues of an animal or plant are all under a certain pressure, caused, in the one case, by the expulsive action of the heart and the restraint of the skin and other elastic tissues, and, in the other case, by the force of the rising sap and the restraint of the periderm or bark. Under this normal amount of pressure they can live and grow. But when-ever, from any cause, the degree of pressure which they are naturally intended to withstand is surpassed, they fail to nourish themselves, become granular, die, and, falling to pieces, are absorbed. Deleterious Surroundings.—There can be little doubt that all unnatural and artificial modes of life tend to deterioration of the powers of resistance of the organism to disease. We see it exemplified in plant life in circumstances which are unnatural to the life of the plant, and the prevalence of certain constitutional tendencies among the inhabitants of crowded cities bears evidence to the same law. Man, like other animals, was naturally intended to lead an out-door life. He was originally a hunter and a tiller of the ground, breathing a pure atmosphere, living on a frugal diet, and exercising his muscles. Whenever these conditions are infringed his powers of resistance to disease are lessened, and certain tendencies begin to show themselves, which are generally termed constitutional. Thus the liability to tubercular infection is far commoner in the midst of a depraved population than in one fulfilling the primary laws of nature; rickets is a disease of great cities rather than of rural districts; and syphilis is more disastrous and protracted in its course in the depraved in health than in the robust. Cattle kept within-doors are in a large proportion of cases tubercular, while those leading an outdoor life are much less liable to infection. The improvement which has taken place in the general health of the inhabitants of cities during recent years, concurrent with hygienic legislation, is ample proof of the above assertions. The diminution in the number of deaths from tuberculosis during the last forty to fifty years of the 19th century of itself points in this direction. Every living organism, animal and vegetable, tends to maintain a normal state of health; it is when the natural laws of health are violated that the liability to disease begins to assert itself. If, in these circumstances, the food supply be also insufficient, the combination of influences is sure, in course of time, to bring about a physical deterioration of the race. Certain avocations have a direct and immediate influence in causing diseased states of body. Thus workers in lead suffer from the effects of this sub-stance as a poison, those who work in phosphorus are liable to necrosis of bone and fatty degeneration of the blood vessels and organs, and the many occupations in which dust is inhaled (coal-mining, stone-dressing, steel-polishing, &c.; fig. 3o, Pl. III.) are fraught with the greatest danger, owing to the destructive influence exerted upon the lungs by the inhaled particles. Among the most dangerous of the last class (the pneumokonioses) is perhaps that in which the dust particles take the form of finely divided freestone, as in stone-dressing and the dry-polishing on the grindstone of steel. The particles in this case set up a form of fibrosis of the lung, which, either of itself or by rendering the organ liable to tubercular infection, is extremely fatal. The abuse of alcohol may also be mentioned here as a factor in the poduction of disease. Parasitism.—Of all external agents acting for evil, however, probably vegetable and animal micro-organisms with a pathogenic bent are most to be feared. When we consider that tuberculosis, diphtheria, cholera, tetanus, typhoid fever, anthrax, malaria and a host of other contagious diseases have each been proved to be of parasitical origin, an idea may be conveyed of therange of the subject. The living organism may be regarded as constantly engaged in a warfare with these silent and apparently insignificant messengers of destruction and death, with the result that too often the battle ends in favour of the attacking enemy. Heredity.—The tendencies to disease are in great part hereditary. They probably express a variation which may have occurred in a far-back ancestor, or in one more recent, and render the individual vulnerable to the attacks of parasitic fungi, or, it may be, become manifest as errors of metabolism. The psychopathic, the tubercular, the rickety, and the gouty constitution may all be transmitted through a line of ascendants, and only require the necessary exciting agents to render them apparent. A distinction must be drawn between the above and diseases, like syphilis and small-pox, in which the contagion of, not the tendency to, the disease is transmitted directly to the foetus in utero. (See HEREDITY.)
End of Article: INFLUENCES WORKING FOR EVIL UPON THE
[back]
INFLUENCE (Late Lat. influentia, from influere, to ...
[next]
INFLUENZA (syn. " grip," la grippe)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.