TUESDAY, Dec. 15, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Rheumatoid arthritis patients who are in remission have significantly higher body temperatures than people without the joint disease, new research shows.
The study included 32 rheumatoid arthritis patients who were in remission and a healthy "control" group of 51 people without rheumatoid arthritis, who all had thermal scans of different areas of their feet.
"These tests demonstrated a significant difference in temperatures in all the regions of the forefoot between rheumatoid arthritis patients in remission and healthy patients. This provides the basis of future studies to assess whether thermographic patterns change with disease activity," said study leader Alfred Gatt. He's a visiting fellow at Staffordshire University's Center for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies, in the United Kingdom.
The findings were published online recently in the journal PLOS ONE.
Gatt, a member of the health sciences faculty at the University of Malta in Msida, said thermal imaging has the potential to become an important method to assess rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disorder.
Cynthia Formosa, head of podiatry at the University of Malta who is also a visiting fellow at Staffordshire, described the findings as important.
"This paper has set out a baseline that demonstrates that even when there is no inflammation detected by conventional methods, the heat emitted over each foot joint is higher than that of healthy adults," she said. Formosa added that this implies the presence of some underlying disease process that is detectable by thermography.
The findings have "implications for both the continued management and self-care of patients in remission from rheumatoid arthritis," said study co-author Nachi Chockalingam, director of Staffordshire's Center for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies.
"In future, it may be possible to use small thermal imaging cameras as a screening tool that can be used by both clinician or patient themselves to detect early changes and prevent further damage to the joints, which can result in significant deformity and disability," he explained in a university news release.
In remission, rheumatoid arthritis is in a controlled state and there is no active joint inflammation.
"It does not mean that rheumatoid arthritis is not present and that it cannot flare up again," Chockalingam said. "What we are now saying is that these patients need continuous monitoring."
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on rheumatoid arthritis.
SOURCE: Staffordshire University, news release, Dec. 2, 2020