Monday, January 28, 2008

Is There Hope for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

I am interested in learning about Rheumatoid Arthritis since my young 30 year old daughter has been diagnosed with it. She has tried many natural means of getting the symptoms under control but nothing has helped. The arthritis is getting worse. Is there any hope that it might just go away someday or is it a life-long permanent health problem? She has four children and this is complicating her life. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

An autoimmune disease is when cells of the immune system, for some reason, begin to attack their own body. No one really knows the cause of this, though there are many theories. Most probably the causes are multiple, including genetic tendencies, bacterial or viral, parasites, allergies, toxins, emotional trauma, etc.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, and can effect other organs in the body, including the blood cells, and is therefore considered a systemic disease. Typically, RA is a progressive illness that has the potential to cause joint destruction and functional disability. Chronic inflammation of the joint and joint tissues can lead to the destruction of the cartilage, bone and ligaments, causing deformity of the joints.

RA is comparatively common, affecting more than two million people in the United States. Women are afflicted with it three times more than men, though all races are affected equally. The disease can begin at any age, but most cases are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60. A family history of autoimmune diseases suggest a possible genetic component.

As with many autoimmune diseases, RA can have cycles of being active or going into remission. Other cases are consistently progressive, with no remissions. When the disease is active, the most common symptom, of course, is joint pain and stiffness, especially in the mornings or when moving after being still. Joints frequently become red, warm, swollen, painful, and tender to the touch. Other symptoms can include fatigue, lack of appetite, low grade fever, muscle aches, and stiffness.

Though there are always exceptions, normally in osteoarthritis a joint on one side may be affected, while usually in RA both sides are affected at the same time. The small joints of the hands, and often the feet, are commonly affected, usually before the involvement of the larger joints.

The diagnosis of RA can be made by any primary care physician, but often they refer to a specialist called a rheumatologist. The diagnosis will be made from the pattern of symptoms, the distribution of the inflamed joints, and the blood and x-ray findings. Abnormal blood antibodies can be found in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. A blood antibody called "rheumatoid factor" can be found in 80% of patients. Citrulline antibody (also referred to as anti-citrulline antibody, anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody, and anti-CCP) is present in most patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and can be used for diagnosis when the RA factor is not present. Another antibody called the Anti-nuclear Antibody (ANA) is also often present in many patients with autoimmune diseases.

Traditional western medicine believes there is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis. To date, the goal of treatment in rheumatoid arthritis is to reduce joint inflammation and pain, maximize joint function, and prevent joint destruction and deformity. This is generally done through a step-wise progression in various types of medicines, ranging from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to steroid anti-inflammatory drugs to anti-cancer drugs to immune-modulating drugs. These can be effective in slowing the progression of the disease, though they do not stop the progression or cure the disease. They can all have serious side effects. This is why so many people are seeking alternative treatment for RA.

There is hope for improvement with other forms of medicine. One treatment was studied and the protocol set forth by Thomas Brown, M.D. He was studying RA in gorillas, which is very similar to RA in humans, and discovered that if he gave the blood from a gorilla with RA to a gorilla without RA, the second gorilla would develop RA. He theorized that RA must have an infectious source. Through many studies, he discovered high levels of antibodies to various bacteria of the mycoplasma family. Mycoplasma are an unusual type of bacteria without a cell wall. Therefore immune system doesn't recognize them in the same way that they can regular bacteria. Dr. Brown theorized that the mycobacteria are able to "hide" in the body and the immune system sets of a generalized reaction attempting to destroy it.

Dr. Brown set a protocol of low-dose long-term antibiotic therapy with very good success. New studies have been done which are showing positive results. I have been using Dr. Brown's protocol for about ten years with good success, including a reduction and even elimination of pain, in a majority of my patients with RA. It can also help scleroderma and some other autoimmune diseases. For more information you can get a book called "The Arthritis Breakthrough" by Henry Scammell, which includes Dr. Brown's original book called "The Road Back" plus the results of more current studies. This book is available at our office ( Also visit, which gives more information and also sells the book.

Besides low-dose antibiotics, our office uses a form of acupuncture called the Jaffe-Mellor Technique, combined with another form called Sensitivity Reduction Therapy to deal with allergies and sensitivities. We also use nutritional supplements to improve immune function and reduce inflammation, and encourage emotional therapy to work through limiting belief systems that may be holding onto or allowing illness. We believe that a severe disease process such as RA must be dealt with on a wholistic level to reach the improvement most patients are looking for.

Until we meet again,
Dr. Judi

No comments: