Whatever Became of Chlorosis?

William H. Crosby, MD
JAMA. 1987;257(20):2799-2800. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390200139031.
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THE FIRST perennial index of medical literature commenced publication in 1880. That volume included all the A's and some B's. The second volume of the Index Catalog of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office U.S. Army, containing Berlioz-Cholas, appeared in 1881. The second volume, heftier than any single volume of today's Index Medicus, contains more than seven pages of references to "chlorosis." One hundred years later, in 1981, Index Medicus contains none, not one, no listing at all. Chlorosis is gone from Index Medicus because it is gone from the practice of medicine. In 1881, chlorosis was a common disease, an iron deficiency anemia appearing especially in maturing girls during the adolescent growth spurt; it was less common in mature women and rare in men. It was called chlorosis because the victims were pale green, pale because anemic, green—who knows why?

Hippocrates mentioned the greensickness. Shakespeare made a


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