The earliest medical use of gold can be traced back to China in 2500 BC. Fast forward four thousand years, and gold continues to be used by modern day doctors to treat pain and swelling in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Gold salts belong to a group of drugs known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Gold therapy not only treats rheumatoid arthritis symptoms such as joint pain and swelling by dampening down the underlying disease process, but can also prevent disability and future joint damage.
There are two forms of gold therapy available: the most common is injectable gold, or gold sodium thiomalate (GST). The second is an oral gold formulation, Ridaura (auranofin), which is considered less effective.
Gold therapy is usually given as a weekly injection and may eventually be given monthly if symptoms are significantly reduced. The treatment is a long-term commitment; most people who do respond to the treatment see improvement after around three to six months.
Although it is not clear how gold works to treat rheumatoid arthritis, it is believed to affect the abnormal immune response involved in triggering the chronic disorder. Until the root cause of rheumatoid arthritis is discovered, the way in which gold appears to slow down the disease process will likely remain a mystery.
As with most things medicinal, there is a caveat and risk factors. Gold reduces the activity of your immune system, so it's always used with care.
For more information about this condition, and gold as a treatment visit http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/.