AskDefine | Define greensickness

Dictionary Definition

greensickness n : iron deficiency anemia in young women; characterized by weakness and menstrual disturbances and a green color to the skin [syn: chlorosis]

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Alternative forms


  1. chlorosis

Extensive Definition

In medicine, chlorosis (also known as "green sickness") is a form of anemia named for the greenish tinge of the skin of a patient. Its symptoms included lack of energy, shortness of breath, dyspepsia, headaches, a capricious or scanty appetite and amenorrhoea. Today this disease is diagnosed as hypochromic anemia.


In 1554, German physician Johannes Lange, described the condition as "peculiar to virgins". He prescribed that sufferers should "live with men and copulate. If they conceive, they will recover." The name "chlorosis" was coined in 1615 by Montpellier professor of medicine Jean Varande from the word "Chloris" (Greek: χλωρις) meaning "greenish-yellow," "pale green," "pale," "pallid" or "fresh". Both Lange and Varande claimed Hippocrates as a reference.
In addition to "green sickness", the condition was known as morbus virgineus ("virgin's disease") or febris amatoria ("lover's fever"). Francis Grose' 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue defined "green sickness" as: "The disease of maids occasioned by celibacy."
In 1681, English physician Thomas Sydenham classified chlorosis as a hysterical disease affecting not only adolescent girls but also "slender and weakly women that seem consumptive." He advocated iron as a treatment: "To the worn out or languid blood it gives a spur or fillip whereby the animal spirits which lay prostrate and sunken under their own weight are raised and excited." In 1872, French physician Armand Trousseau also advocated treatment with iron, although he similarly classified chlorosis as a "nervous disease".
In 1887, physician Andrew Clark of London Hospital proposed a physiological cause for chlorosis, tying its onset to the demands placed on the bodies of adolescent girls by growth and menarche. In 1895, University of Edinburgh pathologist Ralph Stockman built upon experiments demonstrating that inorganic iron contributed to hemoglobin synthesis to show that chlorosis could be explained by a deficiency in iron brought on by menstrual blood loss and an inadequate diet. Despite the work of Stockman and the effectiveness of iron in treating the symptoms of chlorosis, debate about its cause continued into the 1930s.
In 1937, Arthur J. Patek and Clark W. Heath of Harvard Medical School concluded that chlorosis was identical to hypochromic anemia.


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