A gaunt skeleton of a man, all gray robes and rotting limbs, jingles a bell warning people of his approach. This is our unmistakable cultural memory of the leper, cast out of society because of the deadly plague he carries.
Leprosy is an ancient disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, but to this day doctors are unsure how it spreads. This little organism is one of the world's slowest growing germs and can incubate in a human host for more than 15 years. Yet only 10% of the people exposed to the bacteria will experience any symptoms at all. Some of these unlucky bastards sprout hideous bumps and splotches, melted faces, and claw-like extremities, eventually losing all sensation in their skin. This causes unnoticed wounds to fester, and body parts to be accidentally knocked off.
During the Middle Ages, anyone suspected of carrying the disease was forced to abandon their friends and families and live in a secluded leper colony. Naturally, these lepers became a hostile, sickly group. But could a poor leper unleash his venom on the very people who turned their backs to him? Not if his middle fingers had dropped off. There was nothing left to do but wait to die.
CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME
Today, thousands of nerds are afflicted with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a severely painful malady that can cause you to lose the use of your entire wrist or hand, even after extensive surgery. What could cause such pain and suffering? Blame the innocent-looking computer keyboard and it's cuter plague-causing cousin, the mouse. "The technological revolution has outpaced human evolution. We are not biologically equipped to perform thousands of repetitive motions an hour," said Dr. Abner Bevin, Director of the Hand Rehabilitation Center at the University of North Carolina.
The QWERTY keyboard was originally designed to slow down pioneer typists so they wouldn't jam their new machinery. Today, this original layout is supplemented by 60 extra keys causing typists to stretch their nimble hands even further. Add a daily average of 17,000 friendly mouse clicks to the equation and you're stressfully repeating quite a bit. And it can only get worse.
As the disease begins, you start to go numb- sometimes described as a tingling or burning sensation over the thumb, index finger, half the ring finger and yes- even your powerful middle finger. Often patients think their hands are 'falling asleep'- but that's not the case. Unless they make drastic changes to the way they work, or even stop using their computers altogether, the pain gets worse- radiating from the hand to the wrist, to even the shoulders.
Computers are not the only villains. Any repetitive rapid movement, such as haircutting, a career of pruning large topiary, or even flipping people off at a street corner all day long can cause it. If you experience great pain if you try to flip the bird, you may want to seek medical attention immediately! For the finger's sake!
Arthritis is a generic term for a bunch of different diseases that cause pain, swelling, and restricted movement in the body's joints- including the fingers. The disease affects almost 40 million Americans, and there is no cure.
Osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis are the three most common forms of the disease. Each of these can cause you to lose the ability to hoist your central flagpole without extreme pain. Osteoarthritis deteriorates the cartilage that covers the ends of bone, potentially causing a finger shooter the intense pain of finger bone grinding against finger bone. Fibromyalgia just causes widespread pain that affects the muscles and attachments to the bone. Rheumatoid arthritis causes chronic inflammation of the finger's joint lining as part of the body's normal immune system activity. This causes the deterioration of the joint, pain and limited movement.
Arthritis doesn't only affect the old either. Millions of younger people take their daily dose of painkillers just to get through the day. To such a sufferer, it may just be easier to yell an obscenity.