Thermal Cameras Could Simplify Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis 

By Rachel Whetstone from In The Cloud Copy. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) causes pain and suffering to patients around the globe, and it can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages. A new thermal imaging process may bring more rapid detection and treatment for people in need of relief from the disorder. 

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? 

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder caused by an autoimmune reaction. It typically affects a person’s joints, but in severe cases, it can cause inflammation in the skin, eyes, and internal organs. Most patients experience pain and swelling around the joints, which over time, can cause bone erosion and joint deformity. 

What are the Symptoms? 

Early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can include: 

  • Warm, tender, and swollen joints, especially in the fingers and toes 
  • Stiff joints upon waking up in the morning, or after periods of inactivity 
  • Fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite 

Over time, symptoms can spread to the bigger joints such as wrists, ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders, and hips. 40 percent of those with rheumatoid arthritis will have symptoms that don’t involve the joints, such as inflammation in the skin, blood vessels, nerve tissue, bone marrow, and internal organs. 

Symptoms may come and go but tend to progress over time. 

A Difficult Diagnosis 

Currently, getting an official diagnosis for Rheumatoid Arthritis can be difficult and time-consuming. Patients usually need to consult with a specialist and undergo a variety of tests. The tests often involve blood draws and x-rays or CT scans. Researchers have been looking for new ways to detect the disease in order to simplify the process.  

New Developments with Thermal Camera Detection 

A new study published in Scientific Reports suggests that thermal imaging could become an important method in diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis. Researchers used a Flir T630 thermal camera to take images of the hands of RA patients. 

82 participants were involved in the study.  Results show that both palm and finger temperatures were significantly higher in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis than in healthy individuals. 

Two trained rheumatologists examined the patients to be sure that they had no active signs of synovitis in their hands and wrists. 

The lead author of the report was Dr. Alfred Gatt, from the University of Malta and a Visiting Fellow at Staffordshire University. He explained the results: 

“The results of our study show that the two probability curves intersect at 31.5 for palm temperatures, indicating that individuals whose palm temperatures is less than 31.5 per cent are more likely to be healthy; while those persons whose palm temperature is less than 31.5 are more likely to have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Similarly, for finger temperatures, the two probability curves intersect at 30.3 per cent.” 

Faster Treatment 

Further studies are needed to fully recognize the potential of the thermal cameras, but the possibility of a quick diagnosis could make a big difference in the lives of patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Patients who begin treatment sooner have a better chance of avoiding serious complications from the disease. 

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