Hemorrhoids were clearly distinguished in the text, and were associated with or seen to be aggravated by excessive horseback riding, sitting on hard wooden seats, and friction with clothes or skin. By contrast, because the anatomy and functions of the kidneys were not well known, specific diseases due to disorder of renal function are difficult to spy. Tasting the urine, however, was an important element in diagnosis, and diabetes mellitus appears to have been understood as a disease.

Another disease, Pishta, which translates as "water containing ground rice" and which caused the patient to shiver as he or she urinated, may well have been Chyluria; this disease, which arises from filariasis, is common in India today, and probably was in the past as well. In this vein, Shleepada, which means "elephantiasis," the most prominent symptom of filariasis, was reported to occur most commonly in areas where stagnant water was plentiful - a desirable breeding ground for the mosquitoes that spread the disease. Schleepada was a progressive swelling, generally of the legs and less commonly of the hands, lips, ears, nose, and face, and in its late stages produced irregularities and vesicles on the surface of the skin.

The dosas could be disturbed by sexual practices that included too much abstinence or too much intercourse. Syphilis was introduced to India by the Portuguese, and thus there is no mention of syphilitic chancres in the older Ayurvedic texts. But at least soft chancre seems to be discussed under diseases of males and various forms of vaginitis under the female heading. In addition, ailments of women such as amenorrhea and possibly eclampsia can be discerned.

The above sections contain only a fraction of the immense corpus of the Ayurveda. Because of the lack of systematic dissection as well as ignorance of physiological principles, the descriptions of internal disorders in the Ayurveda are vague. However, diseases of the superficial organs and viscera are very well described and generally can be recognized for their modern-day counterparts. The detailed observations of the ancient Ayurvedic physicians have left a body of information in which we can see a reflection of many of the diseases affecting the Indian subcontinent today.

Ranes C. Chakravorty

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