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How Can I Tell If I Have Arthritis

What Are Bone Spurs

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Bone spurs are of two basic types. One is the kind that arises near a joint with osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. In this situation, the cartilage has been worn through and the bone responds by growing extra bone at the margins of the joint surface. These “spurs” carry the formal name “osteophytes.” They are common features of the osteoarthritic shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and ankle. Removing these osteophytes is an important part of joint replacement surgery but removing them without addressing the underlying arthritis is usually not effective in relieving symptoms.

The second type of bone spur is the kind that occurs when the attachment of ligaments or tendons to bone become calcified. This can occur on the bottom of the foot around the Achilles Tendon and in the coroacoacromial ligament of the shoulder. These spurs often look impressive on X-rays, but because they are in the substance of the ligaments rarely cause sufficient problems to merit excision.

How Doctors Diagnose Arthritis Hand Pain

To determine whats behind your hand pain, your doctor will rely on your medical history, a physical exam, and imaging and blood tests to make a diagnosis and determine what kind of arthritis hand pain you have.

Feeling a patients joints during the exam can help differentiate between OA and inflammatory arthritis, Dr. Byram says. The swelling feels harder in those with OA because extra bone at the joints, called osteophytes, forms over time. The swelling in RA and other inflammatory disease feels softer.

Imaging tests, such as X-rays or an MRI, can reveal joint erosion and osteophytes and loss of cartilage .

If your doctor suspects inflammatory arthritis, they will also order blood tests to detect the presence of certain antibodies, such as rheumatoid factor or anti-CCP, that help identify RA and other types of inflammatory arthritis.

What Is Arthritis Of The Hand

Arthritis is a disease that attacks the tissues of your joints. A joint is where two bones meet. Arthritis can attack the lining of your joint or the cartilage, the smooth covering at the ends of bones. Eventually the cartilage breaks down, the ends of your bones become exposed, rub against each other and wear away. You have many joints in your hand, therefore its a common site for arthritis to happen.

Arthritis of the hand causes pain and swelling, stiffness and deformity. As arthritis progresses, you cant use your hands to manage everyday tasks as you once could.

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Can Arthritis Cause Numbness

Numbness is often a symptom of nerve involvement. For instance, numbness in the arm may be related to nerve irritation in the neck. In such a situation, turning or bending the head to the involved side may increase the symptoms. For example, a pinched nerve in the right side of the neck may cause numbness in the arm and hand when a person attempts to look back over the right shoulder. If nerve irritation becomes more severe, the arm and hand may become weak. A physical examination X-rays and an MRI of the neck and electrodiagnostic tests may be useful in establishing the diagnosis.

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Early Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms

You

Like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune condition. That means instead of protecting your body from disease, the immune system turns against your body and attacks itself.

In addition to painful, swollen joints, the condition can cause rashes, eye redness and pain, and changes to the nails. Some people can get swelling of the whole finger or toe, which doctors refer to as sausage-like. This may help distinguish this condition from other types of arthritis.

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Healing Arthritis In Hands And Getting Back To Normal

Once you know what is causing your hand arthritis symptoms, you can start moving on getting rid of that arthritis in hands and fingers.

The arthritis hand pain mechanism is 100% reversible.

Having said that, if a certain amount of damage has been done, even with the arthritis mechanism removed, some or all of that damage may be irreversible .

And, mostly in the case of RA, once the bony structures of the joints change shape as the auto-immune process causes them to become deformed, there is no UN-deforming the bone.Bone shape changes are permanent.

So ideally you completely reverse your arthritis issue BEFORE you develop too much joint damage and/or your finger joints deform and change shape.

Gradual Increase In Pain

Arthritis pain usually starts slowly, although it can appear suddenly in some cases.

At first, you may notice pain in the morning or after youve been inactive for a while.

Your knees may hurt when you:

  • stand up from a sitting position
  • walk on a flat surface
  • sit down for a while

Knee pain that wakes you up from sleep can be a symptom of OA.

For people with RA, the symptoms often start in the smaller joints. They are also more likely to be symmetrical, affecting both sides of the body. The joint may be warm and red.

With OA, symptoms may progress rapidly or they may develop over several years, depending on the individual. Symptoms can worsen and then remain stable for a long time, and they can vary day to day.

Factors that may cause worsening of symptoms include:

  • excessive activity

With RA, symptoms usually appear over several weeks, but they can develop or worsen in a few days. A flare can happen when disease activity increases. Triggers vary and can include changes in medication.

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How Is Arthritis Treated

Theres no cure for arthritis, but there are treatments that can help you manage the condition. Your treatment plan will depend on the severity of the arthritis, its symptoms and your overall health.

Conservative treatments include:

  • Medication: Anti-inflammatory and pain medications may help relieve your arthritis symptoms. Some medications, called biologics, target your immune systems inflammatory response. A healthcare provider may recommend biologics for your rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis.
  • Physical therapy: Rehabilitation can help improve strength, range of motion and overall mobility. Therapists can teach you how to adjust your daily activities to lessen arthritic pain.
  • Therapeutic injections: Cortisone shots may help temporarily relieve pain and inflammation in your joints. Arthritis in certain joints, such as your knee, may improve with a treatment called viscosupplementation. It injects lubricant to help joints move smoothly.

What Type Of Hand Surgery Is Most Commonly Performed On The Specific Joints Affected By Arthritis

How do I know if I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Dr. Hatem Eleishi
  • Base of the thumb: Where your thumb and wrist join. Common surgical options include removing part or all of one of the trapezium bone , tendon transfer or joint fusion.
  • Knuckles : Joint replacement is almost always considered for this repair. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause serious damage and disability to your knuckles.
  • Second joint of your finger : Osteoarthritis commonly causes stiffness and loss of motion. Joint replacement or fusion are considered for these joints. Because you use these joints frequently, there is a chance your implant could wear out. In this case, your provider may recommend further surgery.
  • Top of finger joint : Joint fusion is commonly used to treat arthritis in this joint.

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The Diagnostic Criteria For Rheumatoid Arthritis

The diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis cant be established with just one test. Instead, rheumatologists rely on a combination of your medical history, a physical exam, laboratory tests, and sometimes imaging tests to pinpoint the disease.

They also try to rule out the possibility of other conditions that may resemble RA, such as lupus, psoriatic arthritis, gout, or osteoarthritis. This is called a differential diagnosis.

To begin the diagnostic process, a rheumatologist will take your medical history, which includes asking questions about your current symptoms particularly pain, swelling, and stiffness and their location, duration, and severity.

Theyll also ask about your familys medical history as it pertains to RA and other autoimmune conditions. Conditions like RA can be more common in families with RA or other immune system-related health problems. For example, research recently published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research found that people who have a first-degree relative with RA are more than twice as likely as the general population to develop RA. A family history of lupus, scleroderma, thyroid disease, or inflammatory bowel disease also substantially increased the risk of RA.

Your rheumatologist will also perform a physical examination, testing each of your joints for things like swelling, tenderness, and limited range of motion. The location of affected joints is important to diagnosis.

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Are Glucosamine And Chondroitin Supplements Helpful For Treating Osteoarthritis Of The Hand

Supplements are not reviewed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration . They are not required to undergo the same rigorous clinical trial methods that medications must undergo in the U.S. Some clinical trials show benefits with pain relief however, there is no proof that these supplements slow the progression of osteoarthritis. If you plan to try these, always check with your healthcare provider before using supplements. These products may interfere with medications you currently take.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Dull or burning joint pain, morning stiffness, swollen joints in your hand are all symptoms of arthritis. Many types of arthritis could affect your hands. Many treatment options are available depending on your exact arthritis type. Medications can reduce joint pain and swelling. Researchers are still working on ways to slow the progression of osteoarthritis. See your healthcare provider if you think you have arthritis in your hands. They will perform a complete exam and offer you a complete treatment plan, which includes hand exercises, use of hot and cold packs, other lifestyle tips and traditional treatments including medications, braces/splints, steroid injections and surgery.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/06/2021.

References

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How Does A Normal Joint Work

A joint is where two bones meet. Most of our joints are designed to allow the bones to move in certain directions and within certain limits.

For example, the knee is the largest joint in the body and one of the most complicated. It must be strong enough to take our weight and must lock into position, so we can stand upright.

It also has to act as a hinge, so we can walk, and needs to twist and turn when we run or play sports.

The end of each bone is covered with cartilage that has a very smooth, slippery surface. The cartilage allows the ends of the bones to move against each other, almost without rubbing.

The joint is held in place by the synovium, which contains thick fluid to protect the bones and joint.

The synovium has a tough outer layer that holds the joint in place and stops the bones moving too far.

Strong cords called tendons anchor the muscles to the bones.

What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis

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The symptoms of arthritis vary from person to person. But if you have arthritis, you will almost certainly have symptoms relating to your joints, such as:

  • redness and warmth in a joint
  • stiffness or reduced movement of a joint

Some people also get other problems outside their joints. Other common symptoms include:

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Surgery For Spinal Arthritis

Surgery may be recommended for spinal arthritis if other treatments donât sufficiently relieve pain. The goals of the surgery may include:

  • Stabilizing the spine by fusing several segments together in a procedure called spinal fusion

These surgeries can be performed as open procedures or with a minimally invasive approach. There are pros and cons to each method. The surgeon will review and discuss the options before the operation.

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Symptoms By Body Part

The most commonly affected areas during the onset of RA are the small joints in your hands and feet. This is where you may first feel stiffness and an ache.

Its also possible for RA inflammation to affect your knees and hips. Because the disease presents differently in different people, it can go on to affect almost any joint.

Your organs are another area that can be disrupted by RA inflammation:

  • Your heart muscle can become damaged.
  • Your lungs can become scarred.
  • Blood vessel damage can lead to subsequent skin and nerve issues.

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When To See A Healthcare Provider

Arthritis that interferes with your quality of life in any waywhether from pain or loss of range of motion or bothshould, and can, be treated. See your healthcare provider or an orthopedic specialist if you:

  • Experience symptoms for three days or more in a row
  • Have several episodes of symptoms within a month
  • Find yourself avoiding normal activities
  • Do not get relief with rest, OTC pain medication, and other conservative measures
  • Notice changes in symptoms that are unusualfor example, a stiff joint that normally improves after 15 minutes of exercise becomes swollen and red-hot

Will I Need Surgery For Arthritis

What type of arthritis do you have? A Rheumatologist explains.

Healthcare providers usually only recommend surgery for certain severe cases of arthritis. These are cases that havent improved with conservative treatments. Surgical options include:

  • Fusion: Two or more bones are permanently fused together. Fusion immobilizes a joint and reduces pain caused by movement.
  • Joint replacement: A damaged, arthritic joint gets replaced with an artificial joint. Joint replacement preserves joint function and movement. Examples include ankle replacement, hip replacement, knee replacement and shoulder replacement.

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What Are The Warning Signs Of Arthritis

Pain from arthritis can be ongoing or can come and go. It may occur when you’re moving or after you have been still for some time. You may feel pain in one spot or in many parts of your body.

Your joints may feel stiff and be hard to move. You may find that it’s hard to do daily tasks you used to do easily, such as climbing stairs or opening a jar. Pain and stiffness may be more severe during certain times of the day or after you’ve done certain tasks.

Some types of arthritis cause swelling or inflammation. The skin over the joint may appear swollen and red and feel hot to the touch. Some types of arthritis can also cause fatigue.

What Are Common Arthritis Treatments

There are many things that help reduce pain, relieve stiffness and keep you moving. Your care may involve more than one kind of treatment. Your doctor may recommend medications but there are many things you can do on your own to help manage pain and fatigue and move easier.

Finding the right treatment takes time. It can involve trial and error until you and your healthcare team or therapist find what works best. Be sure to let your doctor know if a treatment is not working. Your treatment may also change as your arthritis changes.

Treatments for arthritis can be divided into several categories: medication, exercise, heat/cold, pacing, joint protection, surgery and self-help skills. You can do things in each of these areas to help yourself feel better and move easier.

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How Do They Work

These shots either go directly into the joint or into the muscle or soft tissue.

These injections consist of corticosteroids, which are chemicals similar to the cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the bodys natural anti-inflammatory hormone, which the adrenal glands produce. After injection, the medication slowly releases into the joint, helping to reduce inflammation and pain.

Some injections start to relieve pain within hours, and the effects should last from a few weeks to a few months. The duration of the effect depends on the type of arthritis and its severity.

Short-acting soluble steroids can easily dissolve into the body and start acting. Therefore, they can start showing effects within a few hours. Long-acting steroids take longer to dissolve into the system. They require a week to become effective.

What Is A Joint And How Does It Work

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A joint is where two or more bones meet, such as in the fingers, knees, and shoulders. Joints hold bones in place and allow them to move freely within limits.

Most of the joints in our body are surrounded by a strong capsule. The capsule is filled with a thick fluid that helps to lubricate the joint. These capsules hold our bones in place. They do this with the help of ligaments. These are a bit like very strong elastic bands.

The ends of the bones within a joint are lined with cartilage. This is a smooth but tough layer of tissue that allows bones to glide over one another as you move.

If we want to move a bone, our brain gives a signal to the muscle, which then pulls a tendon, and this is attached to the bone. Muscles therefore have an important role in supporting a joint.

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Effects On Your Daily Life

  • See a doctor or other relevant healthcare professional if youre unable to do everyday tasks due to joint or muscle pain.
  • If youve lifted something heavy and hurt your back, for example, take some painkillers, apply some heat and try to stay active. If the pain doesnt ease after a couple of weeks or so, see a doctor.

Its important to see a doctor if you get any new symptoms or if you have any trouble with drugs youre taking.

If you have an appointment with a doctor, to help make sure you get the most out of it, you could take a list of questions with you and tick them off as they are discussed.

You could also keep a symptoms diary with details of how youre feeling in between appointments. Some people find that taking a friend or relative with them to an appointment can provide support and ensure that all important points are discussed.

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