Rheumatoid arthritis does not affect computer typing

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Washington, Jan 29 (ANI): A new study by Pittsburgh University researchers suggests that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) does not obstruct computing skills.

The study group discovered that the typing speed of workers with RA was comparable to non-impaired individuals. People trained in touch typing typed faster than those using a visually-guided or "hunt and peck" method, even if they were impaired.

Scientists also found slightly impaired mouse skills in workers with RA.

Lead author Nancy Baker said: "With more arthritic workers using computers, understanding the associations between hand function impairment and peripheral device (keyboard and mouse) limitations is essential and the focus of our current study."

Forty-five participants from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Arthritis Network Registry took part in the study. These volunteers had an average age of 55, were primarily white females, and had RA for 17 years. Half of all participants were working full or part-time, with everyone using computers at work.

Hand function was measured using the Keitel Hand Function Index (KHFI) and the Arthritis Hand Function Test (AHFT). The KHFI included 11 performance test items to gauge active ROM of the thumb, fingers, writs, forearms and elbows. The AHFT comprised of 10 test items to assess pure and applied strength and dexterity in a variety of hand tasks. Subjects' abilities to use a standard keyboard and mouse were calculated by the use of the Assessment of Computer Task Performance (ACTP).

The scientists found that 73percent of volunteers were trained in touch typing and used computers an average of 18 hours per week. Regression models showed that keyboarding speed was considerably linked to touch typing training and age, while mouse speed was notably associated with age only, with younger participants displaying faster speeds than older subjects. Impairments in hand function were associated with 2 of 7 keyboarding tasks and no mouse tasks.

Dr. Baker said: "Our research suggests that if individuals with motor impairments have the capacity to learn touch typing it may increase their overall speed."

Researchers further compared the results of the current study group with an impaired and non-impaired subject group from a normative study by Dumont et al to benchmark ACTP.

Dr. Baker said: "We found that our RA workers had similar keyboarding speed compared with the non-impaired sample...However, we found that mouse speed was much slower in some participants in our RA sample."

She added: "Further research is needed to identify effective strategies to maintain productivity in computer users with RA," concluded Dr. Baker.

The findings of the study have been published in the February issue of Arthritis Care and Research, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology. (ANI)

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