Sunday, August 18, 2019
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The Miracle that is Mercury Or is it?

In our modern world of antibiotics and better health practices it is hard to believe that at one point in medical history the only thing that Doctors had to treat certain illness, if not all of them was the injection of the liquid metal Mercury. This was especially true if you had a case of gonorrhea or syphilis. These diseases are not eradicated and can still be caught today so it is a good idea to always have one of the available Home StI kits  that you can get from www.bexleysexualhealth.org/home_sti_kits around to make sure that you are ok if you suspect that there may be a problem. You’ll certainly not want to go through what people with the condition in the 1800’s and early twentieth century had to when they were diagnosed with it. “I’m going to put you on a course of Mercury injections for a year” was a very common phrase.

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Mercury is weird stuff mainly because it is the only metal in the world that is runny without being heated up first. Copper, bronze and Gold all need to be treated with some heat source first before it gets anywhere near this state. It does react to heat and this is why you find it in barometers and thermometers registering how hot or cold something is.  It can conduct electricity and be used in fluorescent lighting (which is why you need to dispose of them correctly). There is also the case of mercury poisoning where it has occured in water. So, why then, if it is used in all this industrial scenarios, did doctors inject it into patients? The foremost answer is that they did not have anything else.

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The reason that Doctors thought that Mercury was a good treatment for Syphilis is that if you took too much of it you started to show the same symptoms as syphilis. Therefore even though it did no good whatsoever, it was still a logical assumption by the medical fraternity to use it. Sometimes it was impossible to tell if the outward symptoms were as a result of syphilis or the mercury.  This was not the only use for mercury in medicine. It was also a disinfectant, and a very effective one at that, but one of the most disturbing aspects is that they also gave it to people who were depressed and even to women in childbirth to make it easier (not sure how). This carried on into the early twentieth century when they stopped giving it to pregnant women and gave it to children as a laxative instead.

We don’t do that now.