Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an inflammatory autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack the soft bone cartilages surrounding the joints. It is a disabling and very painful condition that often times lead to immobility caused by severe pain, or at the very worst, destruction of the joint itself. Furthermore, RA is a systematic disease. This means that from one afflicted joint, the disease tends to attack surrounding tissues and even far-off situated organs like blood vessels, heart, lungs, muscles tissues and skin. That is also the reason why RA is considered as a multi-system autoimmune disorder.
RA causes painful discomfort and soft tissue swelling which can inflame nearby or surrounding tissues as the disease progresses. Pain generally improves or lessens when the person starts using the affected joints, but there is usually stiffness in the joints especially in the morning. RA is therefore at its worst in the early hours of the morning, or at least, when the person wakes up. Incredibly, after a while, RA patients also tend to suffer from other medical conditions like anemia, cystic fibrosis of the lungs, gastrointestinal bleeding, hepatosplenomegaly (enlargement of the liver and spleen,) leukopenia (steady decrease of white blood cells in the system) and lymphocytic infiltration that may affect salivary glands and lacrimal glands or the tear ducts.
Unless detected and treated early in its development, RA is not only crippling, but can cause deformity as well. In the US, it is estimated that one in three Americans are now afflicted with RA. It is even predicted that this number will grow in an alarming rate as time goes by. Although this medical condition is usually associated with the onset of old age, these days children less than 18 years of age are also suffering from the ravaging effects of the disease. As of yet, there are no treatments available to cure or eradicate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but there are ways to alleviate the pain, and maybe help stop the disease from making satellite "infection" to other organs of the body.
Some of the more "historic," if not, controversial forms of treatment include acupuncture, being stung by bees or nettles, going on an apple diet (taken literally from the adage, "an apple a day..."), going on a rhubarb diet, fasting, ingestion of gold salts or honey or insulin or nutmeg or vitamins, wearing copper bracelets, undergoing magnet treatment, and even the extraction of teeth (possibly on the thought that one pain can overcome the other, but just how many teeth can be exchanged in favor of relief?) The very controversial mode of treatment before was called ECT or electric convulsion therapy or electric shock therapy; it has long since phased out for its obvious lack of success versus the battle with RA.
Usually, doctors prescribe nothing more than pharmacological treatment for RA like anti-inflammatory agents and analgesics. These days, however, scientists are turning to more unconventional route - especially in the form of human growth hormone treatment. You see, human growth hormones contain the substance IGF-1 which in healthy dosages is responsible for healing damaged cells and helps in developing new ones. IGF-1 is also responsible for strengthening and promoting bones, including the soft connective tissues in the human joints called ligaments. There are recent studies that show that re-introduction of prescribed dosages of IGF-1 actually lessens the symptoms of arthritis and helps reinforcing the joints, making mobility easier and achievable with less pain.