PETROLEUM is another of the drugs which are very much overlooked. We tend to prescribe it for skin eruptions and nothing else, but it has a very definite place in the treatment of digestive disturbances. The indications for Petroleum are very clear, and cases calling for it respond exceedingly well.
The Petroleum patient is the anaemic, rather undernourished, chronic dyspeptic woman; and there is the history that the skin is very dry and rough and always tends to crack in winter. These patients get deep chaps on their hands. They always have some catarrhal discharge of some kind somewhere. It may be a chronic nasal discharge, a chronic discharging ear or a chronic leucorrhoea. And always, no matter where the catarrh is, there is the same type of thick, yellowish-green discharge.
They are always rather tired people, and frequently complain of a bruised feeling all over. It is very much like the tired, bruised sensation of Arnica.
In spite of being rather underweight, Petroleum patients have a very good appetite and it may be extreme and go on to a state of constant gnawing hunger. In the attacks of acute gastritis, they are liable to get pain coming on immediately after food. But if they are feeling sickish the feeling of nausea is usually relieved by eating.
Associated with the nausea, they complain of a feeling of faintness or of coldness in the abdomen. It is worth noting that they are extremely sensitive to motion-to rail journeys, car journeys and, particularly, to sailing.
Petroleum is one of the outstanding sea-sickness remedies for cases in which the sensation of nausea is better from eating and is associated with a sinking feeling in the abdomen, and a feeling of general coldness or of coldness in the abdomen.
Petroleum people often complain of coldness in various spots; in the stomach, in the abdomen, between the scapulae, or it may be a cold sensation round the heart.
Associated with the tendency to sea-sickness, most Petroleum patients are very liable to attacks of giddiness produced by any motion-car riding, train travelling and sailing.
They get extreme itching of the surfaces and complain of itching and irritation of the eyes and ears. In the cold weather they get horribly itching chilblains. They have intense irritation wherever there is any skin eruption; the cracks of their hands become intensely irritable, and they get vesicular eruptions all round the edges of the scalp, behind the ears and, particularly, where there is any discharge.
All Petroleum eruptions tend to be extremely itchy. It is said that after scratching they develop a sensation of coldness in the itchy part, but I have never come across it.
Mentally, these patients are quite interesting. They are very often rather excitable and liable to get angry at trifles. But, when not excited, they tend to be mentally dull and a little confused; and their confusion may become quite extreme so that they lost their way when going about.
They may get quite muddled, with the sensation that there is somebody approaching them, somebody near when there is nobody about. They are especially apt to get muddled at night, with a feeling of general confusion and almost the sensation as if there were somebody else in the bed beside them; or they have a feeling that they are double.
As regards their temperature reactions, they are very much worse in the cold, very sensitive to weather changes and to thunder. In winter their skin tends to crack and bleed and become very sore, and yet the acute irritation of the skin eruptions is much worse when they are warm in bed.
If they are out in the cold air, walking against a cold wind, they tend to get a feeling of acute oppression in the chest-a feeling of tiredness, almost a shortness of breath.
The actual digestive conditions from which they suffer may be anything from gastritis to a gastric ulcer, and they are liable to attacks of what one can only describe as chronic colitis.
In their stomach attacks they are liable to develop pretty acute gastric pain which tends to spread up into the chest, and is accompanied by nausea which is definitely relieved by eating.
In their colitis they get fairly violent attacks of colic- exactly the type described under Colocynth.- which doubles them up and is rather better for firm pressure. The whole colon is tender to pressure.
There is exceedingly violent, offensive diarrhoea, and the patients, may be quite incontinent. The stool usually contains a quantity of mucus, is very often greenish in colour and may contain blood. The diarrhoea is liable to be very much worse during the day and better during the night.
Associated with colitis, Petroleum patients are liable to develop an acute catarrh of the bladder. A part from the ordinary symptoms of a bladder catarrh, the Petroleum bladder trouble is often accompanied by intense irritation in the back part of the urethra, and this gives rise to acute discomfort in bed.
As regards likes and dislikes, there is a definite aversion to meat, fats and to most hot foods. The patients are somewhat finicky in their food desires; rather than having any definite specific cravings they want the appetite tickled by something pleasant or unusual.
The diarrhoea is very much aggravated by any vegetables, particularly coarse ones, such as cabbage.
One other Petroleum characteristic : these chronic dyspeptics with their general anaemia and loss of weight, often complain that their hair is falling out in handfuls.