There are 27 bones that help define the wrist and when two or more of those bones come together, you have a joint. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, but it is the most visible when it strikes the hands and fingers. So, you can imagine with so many joints in the hand and wrist, there is plenty of potential for arthritis pain there.
Here's what's new. Researchers are using thermal scanning to find arthritis early even before you can see or feel it much in the hands. Symptoms of arthritis of the hand may include: stiffness, swelling, loss of motion, pain, enlarged joints and crooked fingers. Once you see or feel those problems, the disease can be extremely painful and disabling. Now, researchers from Duke University Medical Center are studying whether a device developed to scan computer circuit boards for defects can also spot early signs of arthritis in the hand.
The thermal scanner spots temperature differences because inflamed joints are warmer, the first sign of arthritis.
"Mostly we rely upon X-rays, which are an indicator of what happens in the bone or around the cartilage, but we know earlier on you have changes in the cartilage and inflammation going on that are not visible to X-ray," says Dr. Virginia Byers Kraus, a rheumatologist at Duke University Medical Center.
The thermal scanner goes beyond the X-ray to find slight differences of a tenth of a degree in temperature. So why would you want to find arthritis early?
"The hope is that if you can identify it earlier, then you'd have a much easier chance of treating it and preventing those late-stage X-ray changes," says Dr. Kraus.
Tina already has arthritis in her knees, so she knows the impact the disease can have. She hopes this new scanner technology will help other patients get the treatment they need sooner.
"Anything to do with research that can help people in the future, I'm all for it," says Tina.
"It's very exciting, and I think the prospect for identifying early and then treating early is going to be very valuable, as new methodologies for treating this disease come along," says Dr. Kraus.