The “data” glove is being developed by a Cork based company – Tyndall- working with engineers from the University of Ulster.
Its development has been welcomed by Arthritis Ireland. Said a spokesperson: “The most important thing in achieving good patient outcomes is early intervention so any diagnostic tool that can expedite this process is most welcome.
“What makes this news even more positive is the fact that the data glove is being created by Irish engineers and an Irish electronics company.”
The glove collects information through pressure sensors on the thumb and fingertips and bend sensors on the finger joints.
These make it much easier to measure hand stiffness and movement instead of the current use of x-rays and less accurate sight and touch tests by trained medical staff where results can vary.
“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,” says Kevin Curran of the University of Ulster.
“Patients will be able to wear the glove at home and this would allow joint stiffness to be dynamically monitored,” Mr Curran’s colleague, Joan Condell, explains .
“The rate of movement of joints at different times of the day can be measured offline from the clinic. This will help quantify and better understand ‘early morning stiffness’ which is almost universal in patients with inflammatory arthritis.
“The system will also be able provide a live 3D stimulation model of joint movement programmed with finger exercises to help with rehabilitation, which will assist clinicians assess the quantifiable benefits of the exercise programme.”
The glove is being tested with patients at Altnagelvin hospital, Co Derry, in a study being led by Western Trust’s rheumatoid arthritis consultant Dr Philip Gardiner.
The designers add that it has “many other possible applications” beyond helping arthritis sufferers, including rehabilitation of hand injuries.