Knowing Whether You Have Arthritis
Arthritis in your hands can take many forms, but the pain or inflammation may mirror symptoms of conditions such as Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or myriad other autoimmune or inflammatory conditions. If you are experiencing burning or numbness in the thumb or first two fingers, hand, and arm, but nowhere else in your body, you may have carpel tunnel syndrome.
If your hands are starting to appear gnarled or deformed, your doctor will perform tests to see whether its due to arthritis or something else, such as Boutonniere deformity or any sort of dislocation or strain injury.
What Is Hand Swelling
Hand swelling is a sign of fluid buildup or inflammation of the tissues or joints of the hand. Hand swelling, which is also called , can also result from serious infections, trauma, and other abnormal processes.
Depending on the cause, hand swelling can last for a short time, such as when it occurs during or after exercise. Chronic hand swelling, or swelling that builds up over time, often indicates an inflammatory process, such as . Hand swelling can also be caused by , such as a bone or a cast that is too tight.
Because swollen hands can be a sign of a serious disease or disorder, you should seek prompt medical care and talk with your medical professional about your symptoms, especially if you experience hand swelling with , redness or warmth.
Hand Deformities From Rheumatoid Arthritis
Evidence suggests that hand deformities commonly occur in the first year of rheumatoid arthritis if it goes untreated.2 Moreover, people who experience hand deformities in the first year tend to have more severe cases of the disease. 3
In some cases, hand deformities can be treated. In addition, new rheumatoid arthritis medications have reduced the likelihood that rheumatoid arthritis will cause permanent deformities.
The most common finger and wrist deformities are described below.
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You May Have Osteoarthritis Or Rheumatoid Arthritis
If its the bony finger joints themselves that are enlarged , osteoarthritis may be to blame, especially if your swollen fingers appear in the morning. This age-related form of arthritis is caused by the wearing down of the cushioning tissues at the end of your joints. Osteoarthritis is often, but not always, accompanied by pain and stiffness, Dr. Utset says.
Rheumatoid arthritis , an autoimmune disease that attacks the lining of the joints, can also cause swelling. Unlike osteoarthritis, RA isnt age-related and can happen to anyone at any age. Swelling in people with RA often happen in the wrists and finger joints. RA can cause the joints to swell up as well as cause inflammation in between the joints, says Neha Vyas, MD, a physician in the department of family medicine at Cleveland Clinic.
Reducing The Strain On Your Hands And Wrists
We use our hands a lot in daily life. If you have osteoarthritis in your hands or wrists, taking some time to think about how you use them, and how you could reduce the strain on them, can bring great benefits. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your hands, just that you should think about ways of using them differently.
It may be helpful to see an occupational therapist or hand therapist, who will be able to offer a lot of useful advice on this. But many people discover for themselves different ways of doing things that help to ease the strain on their joints. Examples include:
- using gadgets such as electric tin openers or tools with softer, chunkier handles that don’t need such a tight grip
- using a backpack or shopping trolley to avoid carrying heavy bags in your hands
- taking more frequent breaks from tasks that put more strain on your joints or switching between harder and easier jobs
- using both hands for some of the tasks that you normally do one-handed
- having taps or door handles changed for those that are easier to use
- looking out for easy-to-handle fastenings when choosing clothing or shoes.
Find out more about looking after your joints.
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Youre Having An Allergic Reaction
Allergic reactions can cause fluid to build up under your skin this is called angioedema. While it usually causes swelling in your face and neck, it can sometimes affect your fingers too. Its even more common if youve been stung by an insect.
Youll probably have a rash or redness around the sting site in addition to the swelling. You might even have swelling all over your body.
How to treat it: If youre dealing with a minor reaction, you can use OTC meds like Benadryl or hydrocortisone cream. Treatment for more severe reactions usually involves antihistamines, steroids, and ice. Seek medical help right away if you develop shortness of breath.
What You Can Do
Arthritis is a common condition with many treatment options. Because it worsens over time, it’s best to seek medical care early. Even if you think your hand pain is mild, make an appointment with your doctor. You can perform exercises, wear arthritis gloves, and take medications to manage the symptoms.
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Medications That Can Cause Hand Swelling
Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using including prescription and over-the-counter medications, supplements, and herbal or alternative treatments. The following medications may be a possible cause of hand swelling:
Antidepressants, such as tricyclics and MAO inhibitors
Whats Causing Your Hands To Swell
When hands swell, its hard to ignore. Especially as the swelling often comes with pain. And it may be more difficult to hold objects and carry out daily activities.
Hand swelling is typically caused by fluid retention, arthritis, or a rise in your body temperature. Some causes will improve on their own and are not cause for alarm. Others can become more serious and damage the structures of the hand. Hand swelling may also indicate an underlying illness.
Treatment depends on the cause of your hand swelling, but in general, following the R.I.C.E. protocol can usually treat most causes of swelling. You may also need medication for underlying conditions.
Hands are important for almost everything we do daily. When they are swollen, it can really interfere with your activities of daily living and decrease your quality of life. Dr. Chandra Manuelpillai
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Numbness In The Hands
Rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation of the connective tissues in your hands or feet, leading to painful sensations of tingling or numbness. Though this swelling can occur in any part of the body, its more common around the wrists. When tissues in the hands are being compressed, its referred to as carpal tunnel syndrome.
How Ra Hand Pain Is Diagnosed
Theres no one test to diagnose RA and in its early stages, signs and symptoms can mimic those of many other diseases.
But early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is important for the best outcome. We are learning that we need to control inflammation much more aggressively upfront as joint damage can ensue early on, says Dr. Albayda. Hence, there has been a shift in treatment paradigms to catching patients early and instituting treat-to-target control.
To help determine whether you have RA in your hand or wrist, a health care provider will examine your hands and fingers for such symptoms as:
- Joint instability
They will also ask questions about other symptoms that tend to go along with RA, such as fatigue, flu-like symptoms, fever, and disrupted sleep.
A health care provider may order imaging tests to check for certain characteristics of RA, such as narrowing of the joint space or erosions of the bone. They will run blood tests to look for antibodies that may be found in people with RA as well as elevated levels of markers of inflammation in the blood.
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Are There Any Other Treatment Options Being Investigated
For osteoarthritis, some clinical research trials are underway in the U.S. exploring stem cell treatment. Early findings are encouraging. Stem cell therapy so far has shown to provide some pain relief and improvement in function. The ultimate goal would hopefully be to use stem cells to regrow cartilage.
Over the past decade, researchers developed many new medications for psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, with more studies underway.
How Is Arthritis In The Hand Treated
Treatment options depend on the type of arthritis, stage of arthritis, how many joints are affected, your age, activity level, the hand affected and other existing medical conditions.
Goals of treatment are to:
- Improve mobility and function.
- Increase your quality of life.
- In the case of rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, to slow the progression of the disease.
Treatment options include splinting/bracing, medications, injections, non-drug approaches and surgery.
Splits or braces support and protect the affected joint, reduce deformity, provide joint stability, lessen strain, and promote proper joint alignment. Your healthcare provider, occupational therapist or hand therapist will discuss splinting/bracing options, how and when to wear them and how long to wear them .
Steroids reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Steroids are usually used if medications dont control inflammation or if the inflammation is limited to a few joints. Injections are administered directly into the affected joint. Because steroids can weaken tendons and ligaments, injections are repeated only a few times.
Other management strategies
A complete treatment plan for arthritis of the hand includes these additional approaches:
If nonsurgical treatments no longer provide relief and the cartilage at the ends of your bones has worn away, surgery may be an option. There are several approaches:
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It Might Be A Blockage In Your Lymphatic System
Lymphedema is a rare limb-swelling disease that comes on when lymph fluid doesnt adequately drain. Your fingers and toes may swell, and usually your arms and legs will swell, too. Your skin may also feel tight or thicker than usual, according to a report from the National Cancer Institute. Lymphedema has been linked with surgery or radiation breast cancer treatments. In rare cases, lymphedema can also be caused by an abnormal growth near a lymph node or vessel, which can lead to fluid blockage.
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Why Do My Hands Hurt: Arthritis And Other Culprits
Do you find that sometimes you get an achy feeling in your fingers or wrist? Do you have trouble moving your fingers or gripping things? It might just feel tingly, or it might be a burning pain. It comes and goes, so you’re not sure whether to worry about it. You just wonder: Why do my hands hurt? Here are three possible culprits for your hand pain and how to address them.
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Weight Management And Diet
Although the link between your weight and osteoarthritis of the hands may be less clear than for weight-bearing joints such as the knees, some research shows that being overweight increases inflammation and therefore pain. Therefore, if you have osteoarthritis of the hand or wrist, it still makes sense to try to maintain, or achieve, a healthy weight.
What Are The Treatments For Ra In The Hands
There is no cure for RA. However, there are a number of treatments that can reduce your symptoms and make you more comfortable.
Anti-inflammatory medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, can help control pain and inflammation during a flare up. Other medications can help prevent the flare ups that can cause pain and damage to your joints.
In some cases, resting the affected joints can help relieve pain. In others, people will find that regular exercise and/or stretching of the affected joints can relieve pain and stiffness. Physical therapy may be ordered to help strengthen the muscles that control those joints and to alleviate pain and swelling.
Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help curb inflammation. These include fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel. If you do not like fish, you can add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet with flax seed oil, walnuts or purslane, a vegetable that is available in many Mexican and Asian markets.
High levels of stress seem to induce arthritis flare ups in some people. Avoiding stress can help you reduce the frequency and the severity of flare ups.
In some cases, surgery may be called for if the joints are severely damaged.
For a treatment at home, many people find that either ice or moist heat can help sooth RA pain. Using a hot compress against the affected area for 15 minutes can ease pain. This is especially helpful before exercise.
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Youre Eating Too Much Salt
General Tsos chicken, lots of chips, or anything fried could be the cause behind your swollen fingers. Your body likes to keep a consistent salt-to-water balance, so when you down extra sodium, it compensates by retaining more water, leading to swelling, Dr. Utset says.
Typically, mild swelling brought on by salty foods goes away on its own within a day but it can last longer depending on how much extra salt is in your system. If you cut back on salt and the swelling persists, see your doctor, Dr. Utset advises.
Symptoms Of Swollen Hands In The Morning
There are at least 40 conditions associated with swollen hands in the morning, stiffness, numbness, or tingling. The most obvious symptom of swollen hands and fingers in the morning is, of coursehaving swollen hands and fingers. But there are other symptoms you need to be aware of:
- Pain: Pain from swollen hands and fingers in the morning can be constant or it can come and go. Your hands and fingers can experience pain if youre at rest. You might also feel pain in one part of your hands and fingers or all over.
- Stiffness: Stiffness is a classic symptom of swollen hands and fingers when you wake up.
- Difficulty moving a joint: Your hands and fingers shouldnt be in pain when you wake up. And it shouldnt hurt to climb out of bed.
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The Difference Between Arthritis And Carpal Tunnel
You rely on the use of your hands for almost everything you do on a daily basis. But when you have constant pain and discomfort in your hands and wrists, these simple tasks become more difficult and uncomfortable.
Two big culprits of this type of pain are carpal tunnel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis conditions infamous for the pain and discomfort they cause in hands and wrists. Because they both lead to a similar type of pain, they can be easily confused. However, these conditions arent related. Carpal tunnel syndrome and RA are distinctly different when it comes to their causes and how theyre treated.
Which Joints In The Hands Are Affected By Ra
The joints that connect your fingers to your hands are among the ones most often affected. You are also likely to experience symptoms in the the joints between your wrist and forearms and the middle knuckles in your fingers. The outermost joints are the least likely to be affected by RA. Usually, people will not start feeling pain there until the joints further down the hand have been affected.
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Hand Joints Are Synovial Joints
The small joints of the hands are an example of synovial joints. Rheumatoid arthritis attacks synovial joints.
- Each synovial joint is encapsulated in a pliable membrane, called a synovial membrane or synovium. When the joint is healthy, this membrane is very thinâjust one or two cells thick.
- The joint capsule contains synovial fluid. This fluid is produced by the membrane. It is thin, clear, and viscous, and it normally nourishes and lubricates the joint, enabling movement.
Synovial joints in the hand are quite small and normally contain just a tiny amount of synovial fluid.
When rheumatoid arthritis occurs, the immune system attacks a synovial jointâs delicate membrane. The affected finger, thumb, and/or wrist joints can become inflamed, swollen, and painful.
The disease process involves these 5 steps:
Contact Dr Baker Today
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that should not be ignored. If you suffer from any of the symptoms listed on this page, its possible that you may be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Contact rheumatologist Dr. Baker today to schedule a consultation at her Beverly Hills office. During this consultation, Dr. Baker with perform various tests to correctly diagnose and begin treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Call 274-7770 or fill out an online contact form today!
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Common Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Chronic pain, stiffness, swelling, and redness are all issues that patients with rheumatoid arthritis are familiar with. Rheumatoid arthritis, which is estimated to affect 1.3% of adults in the United States, is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects a persons joints. Although it can come and go, the condition generally affects the hands, knees, and other joints of the body.
When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, swelling in the joints isnt the only thing patients should be looking for. Because its an inflammatory condition, rheumatoid arthritis can cause various and seemingly unrelated problems throughout the entire body, not just the joints. At her Beverly Hills office, Susan Baker MD specializes in treating RA and other autoimmune disorders, and has compiled a list of six symptoms you should never ignore!