Graham Dinsdale

Phone app could improve Raynaud’s studies

Researchers are testing a mobile phone app so people with the painful condition Raynaud’s phenomenon can monitor their attacks 24 hours a day.

Cold or stressful situations can turn the fingers of someone with Raynaud’s white, blue, and red. They’ll also experience pain, numbness and a tingling sensation that can last for hours.

It affects around 10 per cent of the UK population and can be a precursor to systemic sclerosis, a serious autoimmune disease that affects connective tissue.

But it can be difficult to assess how severe the condition is – patients tend not to have flare-ups in warm hospitals, so their doctors and nurses rely on them remembering and reporting symptoms from an attack days or weeks earlier.

With so many people now using mobile phones with cameras, patients have been attending clinics at Salford Royal with pictures of their hands on their phones – and that has inspired the Arthritis Research UK-funded study.

Dr Graham Dinsdale, a Research Associate at Salford Royal, has worked with colleagues from The University of Manchester to develop an app which can record symptoms accurately and easily when patients take photos of their hands. The team is now testing the app with 40 people with Raynaud’s – 30 with Raynaud’s and systemic sclerosis and 10 with Raynaud’s but not systemic sclerosis.

He is hoping that once the data is analysed, the results will help clinicians to assess the severity of an attack.

Dr Dinsdale said: ”Being able to measure severity will help with treatment decisions – it will give a better idea of whether a patient needs advice about avoiding triggers for instance, or if they should try one of the drugs available. Longer term, we hope it will help future clinical trials by giving us an effective way of judging new treatments.  We don’t have many effective drugs for Raynaud’s at present because of the difficulty of conducting clinical trials into a condition where attacks happen outside hospital, in everyday life.

“We hope our app will make it easier for patients to be involved in clinical trials by providing them with a simple and fast way to record their symptoms.”