Arthritis patients find relief through new ultrasound method

Crippling arthritis came soon after Ron retired from Qantas in 1994. He says it was like having an elastic band wrapped around his wrist that he could not shake off.

Ron remembers the shock he felt when, after a series of tests, it was revealed he had rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Lifestyle changes and medication did little to keep the pain under control, so it was with some trepidation Ron became involved in a pioneering new method that would allow him to track the progression of his condition so that he could keep ahead of it.

Australian rheumatologist associate professor Fred Joshua is helping patients — including Ron — visibly see the structural damage his disease is causing by using an ultrasound.

The method is being used to detect joint inflammation and predict whether or not the disease will relapse of flare up.

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Ron says he has a much better understanding of his condition.

“It is incredible as I can see what is happening in the way of inflammation and blood flow, as the doctor was describing it,” Ron says. “I could ask more questions around the severity of my condition.”

Professor Joshua says the ultrasound imaging technology is the next step in diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that affects roughly 445,000 Australians.

“Severe, chronic rheumatoid arthritis leads to continued joint inflammation and deterioration,” professor Joshua says.

“Doppler ultrasound has instilled patients with confidence as it can allow them to more effectively visualise their disease and motivate them to follow treatments correctly.”

Professor Joshua is from Macquarie University and has led a study into the effectiveness of the ultrasound method. The positive results have led to the development of a program so that more Australian rheumatologists can use it.

Do you or does someone you know suffer rheumatoid arthritis? What do you think about this information?