A new joint study, carried out by the University of Malta and the Staffordshire University, found that thermal imaging has the potential to become an important method to assess Rheumatoid Arthritis. The study was published Monday in the Scientific Reports journal.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects the synovial membrane encapsulating the joints and causes swelling, which may, in turn, cause severe joint pain and deformity. The study, which involved 82 participants, confirms that both palm and finger temperature increase significantly in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis and this makes the thermal camera an important diagnostic tool.
This camera uses infrared imaging instead of visible light, given that infrared rays are emitted from everything based on its temperature, and thus using it could allow detecting the temperature of an object.
During the study, the researchers used Flir T630 thermal camera, and the results showed that individuals whose palm temperature was less than 31.5°C were more likely to be healthy; while those persons whose palm temperature was less than 31.5°C were more likely to have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Similarly, for finger temperatures, the two probability curves intersect at 30.3°C.
"This is the first study to explore thermographic patterns of patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis comparing them to healthy controls. Our results have clearly shown that an RA hand without active synovitis exhibits higher temperatures when compared to healthy individuals," Lead author Cynthia Formosa was quoted as saying in the report.
Rheumatoid Arthritis affects more than 400,000 adults in the UK which can lead to deformity, disability, and cardiovascular problems. Although timely detection of arthritis through continuous ultrasound is very important to help detect the disease, it's impractical and costly.