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I Searched For Some History of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Posted Oct 03 2008 11:31am

I thought I would do a little research into the history of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I really enjoy history and since I have RA, why not combine the two! It goes back pretty far; farther than I thought it would. Some skeletal remains in what is now Tennessee that are dated back to 4500 BC have shown some signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis. So far, that’s been the earliest appearance of this condition.

The first documented appearance of Rheumatoid Arthritis comes much later in 123 AD in India. A text called the Caraka Samhita contains a description of what sounds like RA, painful joints in both hands and feet, eventually spreading to other areas of the body, there was also record of occasional fever and appetite loss.

Then we jump ahead to 1591 in France. A French physician, Guillaume de Baillou, wrote one of the first books on the arthritis disease. He uses the term “rheumatism” to give description to an ailment with inflammation, stiffness in muscles, and pain in the joints. “The whole body hurts, in some the face is flushed; pain is most severe around the joints, so that the slightest movement of the foot, hand or fingers causes a cry of pain…At night…the pain becomes more serious and the patient cannot sleep.”

A Peruvian bark containing quinine, an anti- malarial agent was being used in 1680 to treat the symptoms of rheumatism. Then in 1763, another bark was discovered to produce positive results in fighting the effects of rheumatism; willow bark contains salicylate, the main ingredient for aspirin. Are you still with me? Sorry, if you haven’t found this exciting- I love it!

The term Rheumatoid Arthritis wasn’t coined until a London physician, Sir Alfred Garrod, came up with it in 1859 and that was the start of RA being recorded in medical books and records. Before the 19 th century came to an end, joint replacement surgery had begun with a carbon steel screw and plates system developed by W.A. Lane, in 1893. The x-ray is developed in 1895 which allowed physicians to see actual damage and inflammation of an arthritis sufferer. Two years later, in 1897, aspirin is manufactured by the company Bayer, using the willow bark substance, discovered over a century before. It fast became known world wide as a standard treatment for pain and rheumatoid arthritis. j0406578

Turning the corner into the new twentieth century, gold shots became a form of therapy for this chronic condition. In 1927, gold salts began to be injected into patients periodically to relieve muscle pain, associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Two years later, in 1929, the first artificial hip joint was patented and in 1939, down in Melbourne Australia, Sir McFarlane Burnet introduced the first autoimmunity theory. This is the theory that antibodies cause the body’s immune system to malfunction and attack its own tissues. Almost 70 years later, this theory still holds true!

In the 1940’s Rheumatoid Arthritis gained more recognition with the 1941 American Rheumatism Association, and in 1946, the American Committee to Control Rheumatism is founded and two short years later the Arthritis Foundation begins. More important discoveries are uncovered in 1948; Drs. E.C. Kendall and Philip Hench show the world that steroid hormones can be used as therapeutic anti-inflammatory- they win the Nobel Prize! Still keeping with 1948, a discovery just as important is made known; a test is developed called the Rose-Waaler diagnostic test, which reveals the antibody known as the rheumatoid factor is found only in the blood of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The next fifty years of the century saw many new treatments, procedures and surgeries discovered. Prednisone, a synthetic off shoot of cortisone is ushered in and begins the most popular oral cortisteroid medication, in 1955. Plaquenil is also introduced as the new anti-malarial drug used to put Rheumatoid Arthritis into remission (remember the Peruvian bark extract used in 1680? That’s the basis!)

There you have it; my little history research on Rheumatoid Arthritis. I would love it, if you could tell me more! Please do!

Follow along my Aud Life of Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (C)Copyright All Rights Reserved

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