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Innovative treatment that fits like a glove for arthritis sufferers

By Lisa Smyth

Researchers at the University of Ulster are helping to develop an innovative new glove which could help ease the suffering of people with arthritis.

The revolutionary piece of equipment - with rotation sensors on the thumb, fingertips and joints - will allow accurate information of how patients are affected by the condition.

It is hoped this will lead to more effective treatment of the debilitating condition, which causes inflammation and pain in the joints.

There are 10 million people living with arthritis in the UK. One in five of the adult population in the UK has arthritis.

A recent survey by Arthritis Care revealed 81% of the people questioned are in constant pain or are limited in their scope to perform everyday tasks.

Dr Kevin Curran from the School of Computing and Intelligent Systems at the University of Ulster said the Tyndall data glove will make it easier to manage the condition.

"If patients are to receive the care needed to manage their condition and doctors the time to assess their condition thoroughly, more accurate and less laborious methods to record joint movements are needed," he said.

"Measurement of joint range is used to establish a baseline and to record progress, but this requires exhaustive personal examination and can be very labour-intensive.

"Current measurement techniques are either invasive like X-rays or have an over-reliance on manual evaluation, such as vision and touch, both of which are very dependent on training and experience and results can vary widely between observers."

PhD researcher James Connolly said while data gloves have been used before they were not fitted with sufficient sensors on each finger.

"Deformities and swollen joints caused the sensors to record inaccurate readings," he said.

"The bespoke glove we are developing with Tyndall National Institute in Cork will give more precise and detailed readings."

The Western Health & Social Care Trust and the Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre at Altnagelvin Hospital are also involved in the research.

The Arthritis Research Campaign found 206 million working days were lost in the UK between 1999 and 2000 due to arthritis - the equivalent to a loss of production of £18bn.

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