Virchow defines scrofulosis as a nutritive disturbance, consisting in a defective metabolism, in consequence of which there results deficient utilization of nutritive substances sent to the tissues through the blood, and deficient development of the tissues. To this disturbance are attributed the abnormal sensitiveness of scrofulous individuals to external irritants and the great tendency to inflammatory processes of peculiar type, as well as the chronic course and the frequent recurrences and slight tendency to normal tissue formation and recovery. An organism thus affected withstands infectious diseases badly and readily succumbs to tuberculosis.
Three stages of the condition are recognized. In the first occur those disorders that depend upon defective histologic organization of the tissues, as well as upon the defective metabolism, and their sequels, including flabby musculature, scanty deposit of fat, a torpid and erethetic condition of the skin, abnormal delicacy of the skeleton, anemia, cardiac weakness, slight tumefaction of