Mrs. D.R., a forty-eight-year-old, attractive French beauty operator, married, one twenty-year-old daughter and one infant dead from breech complications, came on May 31st, 1949, with a long list of symptoms, mostly persistent headaches. Her past history revealed the usual children’s diseases : whooping cough and a bad case of measles, frequent colds, bronchitis. Jaundice at the age of twenty-three. Most of her difficulties started in 1935 when she was operated upon, in Algeria, for peritonitis followed by a severe loss of weight, gastroptosis and renal ptosis on the right side. Shortly afterward, she developed a lung abscess on the left and a purulent pleurisy on the right side that kept her eight months in bed. About three years ago she suffered from an acute hemorrhagic nephritis and, since that time, she has complained of hypertension, ringing in the ears with slowly progressive deafness, hot flushes, menstrual irregularities and loss of weight. All this, she said, as a consequence of the hardships endured in France during the war.
She has lived in San Francisco four years and has been crucified with chronic severe headache ever since she came here. These headaches start every day between 4-5 a.m., lasting most of the day, often accompanied by nausea, retching and vomiting. They are located mostly over the right eye or in the occipital region, extending all over the head, somewhat ameliorated by her morning coffee, always worse at the end of the menstrual flow. Of course, all too soon, she exhausted the list of pain killers only to find that she became “allergic‘ to them and had her stomach injured by them. She cannot tolerate milk, cream, fats, chocolate and pastry.
At times she gets so thirsty that she has to drink ten glasses of water one after the other, and again there are times when she won’t drink a drop for days. Constipation has been most obstinate for years, her bowels don’t move “without something”. There have been no menses for three months, but before that she had all kinds of irregularities. Hot flushes persistently. She complains of frequent pains in the right upper quadrant (liver region) and under the right shoulder blade. Extremities are warm so much so that she frequently sticks her feet out of the covers at night, and yet she is chilly and generally worse by cold and damp weather. She perspires easily and freely. She has been a very poor sleeper for many years. Since the headaches are the main complaint, let us consider some of the nosological aspects of this syndrome. It is an accepted fact that migraine headaches and those produced by prolonged muscle contractions associated with anxiety and emotional tension are the most common types. Headaches due to septicemia rank next, to be followed by those due to nasal, paranasal and eye diseases.
Headaches produced by meningitis, aneurysm, brain tumour or abscess are much rarer. The outstanding features of the migraine syndrome are its periodicity, the unilateral onset that may become generalized, the associated nausea and vomiting, constipation or diarrhrea, photophobia, scotomas and sensitivity to noises. Most of these features belong to our patient. However, this type of headache is notoriously hereditary and we find no such evidence here. In spite of considerable research and studies which have brought up many clever explanations as to the mechanism of migraine, and other types of headache, the cause is still unknown. Very similar to the migraine headaches are those associated with arterial hypertension. Both are known now to be produced essentially by the same mechanism. Both start in the early hours of the morning, as contrasted to other types of headache starting during the day (nasal diseases) or evening (eye diseases, muscular contractions).
Brain tumour headache has no connection with the time of day. If our patient’s headache can be tagged migraine, there is no doubt that hypertension is also an important factor. Let us go back to her history. Her mental symptoms are worthwhile considering. She was in France during the war and suffered a great deal. In fact, she has been “neurasthenic “ ever since, she says. The depressive spells are more pronounced before menses. While in Algeria some years ago, she was attacked by an Arab and this brought a change in her usual sweet disposition, so that she often becomes angry and ill-humoured. As soon as settled anywhere, she wants to go away. Maybe she should go back to her native France, and yet she came to San Francisco thinking she would find happiness. She loves her husband dearly, but at times she thinks she should divorce him. Physical examination reveals a lean, white, brunette female, looking younger than her age. Height 5 ft. 4- in., weight l16 lb., obviously in pain, nervous and emotional. Pertinent physical findings are as follows : head negative, eyes with equal pupils reacting to light and accommodation. Ears with thickened tympani. The lungs are clear, of good expansion, no rales. Heart slightly enlarged to the left, no murmur, rate 102 slowing down to 85 on deep and slow inspiration. Blood pressure 210/ 140. Abdomen flat and flabby with two vertical scars from umbilicus to pubis. Epigastrium very sensitive to pressure. Liver smooth, palpable just under the costal margin, ptosis of the right kidney. Micro poly-adenitis in axillae and groin. Tendon reflexes normal throughout. There is a tendinous retraction of the little fingers, more marked on the right, another signature of what the French school calls a “tuberculinic ground”. Laboratory : urinalysis is negative. Blood count shows a moderate secondary anemia. Hemoglobin 12 gm., 70 per cent. Red cell 4,040,000. White cells 7,000 with a normal differential. Serology negative. Family History. Father died at sixty-three from angina pectoris and arteriosclerosis. Mother died at seventy-five from a heart attack. One brother and one sister in good health. The signs and symptoms (in italics) referring to the patient have been mostly the ones taken into consideration for the selection of her remedy. Placebo was prescribed for the first week without noticeable results except the gain of 1lb.
June 7th : Morbillinum
July 11th: has gained 6 lb., weighs now 123 lb. She felt very much better and stronger in all respects until menstruation started again after four months of absence. She says she has been sleeping wonderfully for the first time in years. Blood pressure; right 190, left 164/ 120. Morbillinum continued. July 28th : headaches mostly occipital and over the right eye with pains in liver region since last menses which finished yesterday.
Pulsatilla August 15th : weight 120 lb. B.P. 165/ 120, both sides. Better.
Continuation of the remedy.
September 17th. feels tired and depressed lately ; irritability before last menses which lasted twelve days, scanty. Weight 117 lb. B.P. idem. Lachesis.
November 9th : very much improved until a week ago when she suffered a bad liver attack accompanied by a severe headache with retching. Weight, 115-!lb. B.P. 200/ 120. Lachesis.
November 30th : much better all around. B.P. 160/ 110. However the old restlessness is emerging again, justifying the prescription of Tuberculinum.
The patient moved to San Mateo (in spite of Tuberculinum). I heard from her recently that she required no further treatment .
Comments: There are many ways in which a case like this can be handled. The psychiatric approach could make definite claim. The endocrine method would be particularly enticing as our patient is in the throes of the menopause. The allergist would have a substantial basis for treatment. Even the surgeon could propose a sympathectomy. Other methods of therapy could be suggested aside from the allopathic treatments that gave no satisfactory results. None would be as synthetic, total, logical, rapid, durable and gentle as the homeopathic one.
Interesting is the opening and closing of the treatment by a nosode. The first, Morbilinum, disposed of deep-seated factors and cleared the deck for the next prescription.