King's commemorates activities and research on World Arthritis Day

King's has a long history with arthritis research and been recognized as having one of the premier rheumatology research units in Europe.

This World Arthritis Day, we celebrate some of the activities and research from King's. From research into mental health and its effect on patient's arthritic symptoms flaring to working with designers to create clothing that is suitable for people with musculoskeletal conditions, arthritis and the impact of musculoskeletal conditions is a large focus of many of the researchers at King's.

Research shows link between mental health and disease flare in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Research from the Department of Inflammation Biology has shown there is an increased risk of disease flare in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients who suffer from depression.

Mental health disorders are common in patients with RA with 17% of patients suffer from major depression and up to 50% of patients demonstrate significant depressive symptoms. Poor mental health is associated with pain and fatigue. This has been shown to influence response to treatment when therapy is started at diagnosis of RA.

The aim of this study was to determine if mental health predicted the likelihood of a disease flare, which might lead to more personalised treatment plans in the future. The researchers found worse mental health score was associated with disease flare in RA patients undergoing treatment tapering. To ensure success with treatment tapering, a mental health screen should be carried out. This will help physicians make more personalised treatment decisions in the future. Read the full story about this research here.

Researchers partner with British Society for Rheumatology on national arthritis audit

Researchers from the Department of Inflammation Biology have partnered with and are supporting the British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) in running the National Rheumatoid and Early Inflammatory Arthritis Audit (NEIAA).

This audit is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) as part of the National Clinical Audit and Patient Outcomes Programme (NCAPOP). In its initial stages, the audit is collecting data on all new patients over 16 years old with suspected inflammatory arthritis from specialist rheumatology departments in England and Wales.

The audit will assess the care provided by rheumatology services and the health outcomes for people living with inflammatory arthritis conditions and assess the services against the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines.

Mark Yates, a King's research and part of the team leading the audit, commented: "The goal of NEIAA is to improve quality and reduce variation. The recognition of inflammatory arthritis as a disease worthy of a national project such as this should be a source of optimism for the rheumatology community internationally".

Expert Patient Group

How can our researchers ensure that their studies are relevant to the lives of patients who live with musculoskeletal conditions? In 2008, Heidi Lempp a Reader in medical sociology in the Department of Inflammation Biology set up an Expert Patient/Carer Group known as the 'King's College London Musculoskeletal Expert Patient Group'.

This group is involved in many local and departmental activities such as providing input into research studies and teaching as well as nationally by being members of the Patient Panel for the NEIAA. Each member of the group is formally appointed as a visiting member of staff and receive all the same benefits and opportunities as departmental staff.

In addition to teaching and providing input to study design, the group has contributed to five successful research grants and had 18 first author, peer-reviewed publications accepted since their formation. The group also plays host to a series of education evenings, these are organised as a collaboration between academics, patients and clinic staff, and the topics are suggested by the group. The evenings include talks by a range of experts on how their area of interest can contribute to managing a long-term rheumatological condition.

To read more about the group and to hear from individual members about their experiences as Expert Patients, visit their blog here.

Garment plus

Fashion plays an important part in people's lives and contributes to their sense of identity. This is no less true for people living with long-term musculoskeletal conditions (MSK), such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, who often have difficulty dressing due to pain, stiffness, fatigue, and restricted joint mobility. Yet clothing is not always tailored to a variety of bodies and physical capabilities.

In an attempt to remedy this, designer Alexa Chan, a graduate of London College of Fashion, and Dr Heidi Lempp worked with the Expert Patient Group and other patients to co-create new garment designs that are mobility-friendly.

The patients were invited to test garment prototypes during workshops and their daily activities. Through four co-design workshops, design parameters were determined through an iterative cycle of making, testing, feedback and modification. This practice allowed for the development of a range of template designs that overcome the different barriers to independent dressing and a wider diversity of choice.

Patients agreed that garments that are functional, accessible and aesthetically compatible with their daily lives can maximise patients' satisfaction, independence and social acceptance; therefore, playing a pivotal role in sustaining a feeling of control over their personal lives.

Looking forward

King's researchers have several active grants and clinical trials ongoing that are contributing to the already large body of arthritis and rheumatology research such as Dr Sam Norton who is developing an app to help healthcare professionals track symptoms and identify people at risk of ongoing problems. Sam's ambition is to bring psychological research together with physical treatments to improve the experience for patients with arthritis.

King's has a long and ongoing history of being world-leaders in arthritis research and will continue to contribute to its growing body of research.

World Arthritis Day is a global initiative, managed by European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR), and aims to bring people together to raise awareness of issues affecting people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases and is recognised every year on 12 October.

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