When Hand Or Wrist Pain May Mean Arthritis
Learn about the various causes of hand or wrist pain, including different kinds of arthritis.
Many forms of arthritis and related conditions that affect different parts of the hands. Common symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling or numbness in the wrist and fingers. Pitted nails, painful ulcers or thickened skin that makes bending the fingers difficult may also occur. Here are some diseases that affect the hands.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Also known as wear and tear arthritis, OA is a chronic condition caused by the breakdown of the cartilage, which cushions the ends of the bones where they meet to form joints. This breakdown causes the bones to rub together, causing stiffness, pain and loss of joint movement.
In hand OA, the joints most commonly affected by OA are the wrists, the joints at the base of the thumb, the middle finger joints and the joints closest to fingernails. In the finger joints, OA can lead to the formation of nodes .
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease caused by a faulty immune system that primarily attacks joints . The result can be joint pain, swelling, inflammation and loss of function. RA commonly affects the wrist and finger joints. RA usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body . If untreated, the disease can cause joint deformities that make it difficult to use the hands.
How Do I Know If I Have Arthritis
Osteoarthritis: This form of arthritis is also called degenerative joint disease or is commonly referred to as wear and tear arthritis.
How does it occur? Over time, the breakdown of protective cartilage within a joint leaves the bones to rub against one another, producing pain. This can happen due to injury, overuse or even because of genetics.
What symptoms does it cause? This condition often affects the hips, knees, or lower back. In addition to general joint pain, it causes stiffness, especially first thing in the morning and swelling in the joints after activity.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: This form of arthritis is a systemic, autoimmune disorder that specifically impacts the joints.
How does it occur? When the immune system attacks healthy joint tissue, the synovium is compromised, resulting in inflammation.
What symptoms does it cause? It most commonly impacts the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles and occurs within those joints symmetrically. In addition to causing general joint pain, those suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis often also complain of fatigue, fever and various other problems throughout the body.
Psoriatic Arthritis: This form of arthritis is also an autoimmune disease, which affects both the joints and the skin.
Ready to make an appointment with a doctor to discuss your joint pain? For more information, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.
Do I Have Arthritis Quiz
Arthritis is a debilitating condition of joints. It is a chronic condition. Do you suspect that you may have arthritis? Then, take our super-informative “Do I Have Arthritis Quiz” to know if you are suffering from arthritis.
You May Get
You May Be Have Arthritis
You Don’t Have Arthritis
- Do you feel tired a lot in the past 6 months?
No, I don’t think so
No, I don’t think so
Also Check: What Tests Are Done For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Other Possible Causes Of Hand Pain
Hand pain is also a sign of Dupuytrens contracture, a condition in which the tissue of the palm and fingers becomes thickened and tight, causing the fingers to curl inward. Its not clear why Dupuytrens contracture develops, though those who smoke, drink a lot of alcohol, and have seizures or diabetes are more vulnerable to developing it.
Your doctor will also consider whether your hand pain could be due to carpal tunnel syndrome, says Dr. Byram. RA can be a cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, so if we see someone who has carpal tunnel, well want to make sure they dont have RA. Carpal tunnel is a condition that occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand the median nerve is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Dont Miss: Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Curable
The 2010 Acr/eular Classification Criteria Guidelines
Sometimes people who have been diagnosed with RA take part in studies or clinical trials perhaps to try a promising drug or study ways to improve quality of life.
To identify RA patients with typical features of RA who are suitable for these important studies, scientists use a set of guidelines created by the American College of Rheumatology and the European League Against Rheumatism. These are called the 2010 ACR/EULAR classification criteria.
For classification purposes to be considered for enrollment into studies, patients must first have at least one inflamed joint that cant be explained by another condition. Then theyre evaluated for classification based on the following:
- Joint involvement. Which joints are swollen? How many are affected? Are they large or small?
- Serology test results. What are the results of RF and/or ACPA tests?
- Acute-phase reactant test results. Are the results of CRP and/or ESR tests normal or abnormal?
- Duration of symptoms. Have symptoms been around more or less than six weeks?
Others who may be eligible for studies include long-time RA patients whose past symptoms fulfill the criteria, those with joint damage very characteristic of RA, and those with new RA who are receiving treatment.
You May Like: How Do You Treat Arthritis In The Foot
What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis In The Neck
Surprisingly, many people do not experience any symptoms of arthritis. Those who do, however, may experience the following symptoms:
- numbness or weakness of the arms, hands, legs, or feet
- sensations of grinding or popping while turning the neck
- loss of bowel or bladder control
- lack of coordination
- fatigue and/or trouble sleeping
These arthritis symptoms could last for several months or become chronic over time.
With rheumatoid arthritis, you may also experience stiffness in the hands and wrists, particularly in the morning after waking up, Dr. Shah notes.
Ankylosing spondylitis may affect the back and hips, again with symptoms worse after waking up, he says.
You May Like: Stop Arthritis In Fingers
Difference Between Osteoarthritis And Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are several different types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the most common forms. Although the symptoms of these two types of arthritis can be similar, its very important to distinguish between them in order to determine the proper treatment.
At the University of Michigan Health System, our experienced rheumatologists will do appropriate tests to determine which type of arthritis you have. Then we will develop an effective treatment plan and will explain your options.
Osteoarthritisoccurs when the smooth cartilage joint surface wears out. Osteoarthritis usually begins in an isolated joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system malfunctions and attacks the body instead of intruders. In this case, it attacks the synovial membrane that encases and protects the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis often targets several joints at one time. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- the symmetrical nature of the disease ,
Also Check: How To Soothe Arthritis Pain In Feet
Exercise And Physical Therapy
Results of randomized controlled trials support physical exercise to improve quality of life and muscle strength in patients with RA.32,33 Exercise training programs have not been shown to have deleterious effects on RA disease activity, pain scores, or radiographic joint damage.34 Tai chi has been shown to improve ankle range of motion in persons with RA, although randomized trials are limited.35 Randomized controlled trials of Iyengar yoga in young adults with RA are underway.36
You May Like: Do You Get A Rash With Rheumatoid Arthritis
Malalignment Of One Or More Finger Joints
Over time, the destruction of bone and joint tissue may cause fingers and thumbs to become deformed. While the risk of hand deformities is significant, they are not inevitable.
A diagnosing physician will examine a patients hands, feet, and any other jointslarge or smallthat the patient reports as painful.
Read Also: What To Do For Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain
How To Prepare For An Initial Doctors Appointment
During your first appointment, your doctor will conduct a physical exam, collect details about your medical history, and discuss which symptoms you may be experiencing.
Generally, they will evaluate your joints for inflammation, swelling, and redness and may order imaging tests or blood work to determine if you have RA.
Be sure to keep track of all your symptoms and consider logging the time, duration, and severity of each symptom as it occurs. You should also provide your doctor with information about any medications that you are taking, including the frequency and dosage.
Keep in mind that you may not receive a definitive diagnosis on your first visit, as many autoimmune disorders develop slowly over time.
However, your doctor may discuss possible treatment options with you, which can include medications, physical therapy, pain management, exercise, and other modifications to your diet and lifestyle.
Its important to discuss any questions you have regarding your treatment plan with your doctor. Some questions you may want to consider asking:
- What treatment options are right for me?
- What are the potential side effects from my treatment?
- What types of exercise would be beneficial? How often should I work out?
- Are there other ways to treat symptoms at home, such as by using a hot or cold compress?
- What options available for mental health support, if needed?
- Would I benefit from physical therapy, nutrition counseling, or other complementary treatments?
When To See A Doctor About Early Arthritis Signs
You should see a doctor right away if one of your joints suddenly becomes swollen, red and hot to the touch, or if you cant bear weight on it at all, since those can be signs of gout or a serious infection, Haque says.
Arthritis has no cure, but there are steps you can take to minimize pain and stiffness, says Rochelle Rosian, a rheumatologist with the Cleveland Clinic Department of Rheumatologic and Immunologic Diseases. There is a lot we can do to help you feel better, she says. You can live a long and healthy life with arthritis.
Your primary care doctor may be able to treat your symptoms if theyre mild, or he or she may refer you to a rheumatologist, a sports medicine doctor, an orthopedist or a podiatrist, depending on your symptoms and where your problem is located.
Expect your doctor to ask you what makes the pain better and what makes it worse, how long youve had the pain and stiffness and whether you have had any trauma to the area. Its not unusual for a high school sports injury to manifest as arthritis in a joint decades later, Rosian says.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The providers terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Youll start receiving the latest news, benefits, events, and programs related to AARPs mission to empower people to choose how they live as they age.
Don’t Miss: What Type Of Doctor Deals With Arthritis
Tender Achy Or Painful Joints
Many illnesses and injuries can make your joints hurt. To narrow the source down to arthritis, ask yourself the following questions:
- Did the pain come on suddenly or gradually?
- Have I injured the area recently?
- Does it hurt all the time or only sometimes?
- Does physical activity tend to make it better?
Arthritis pain usually comes on gradually. Its typically worse in the morning and gets better when you start moving around throughout the day. Rheumatoid arthritis, caused by an autoimmune disorder that keeps your joints constantly inflamed, makes your joints feel tender to the touch.
How To Tell If You Have Arthritis In Your Knee
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic or acute knee pain each year, and it can be difficult to get appropriate treatment and much-needed relief without knowing the actual cause of the pain. Since many conditions can have symptoms that mimic one another, it is important to seek the advice of a professional when seeking a diagnosis, treatment, or therapy for your knee pain. Dr. Christopher Williams and the knowledgeable team at Interventional Orthopedics of Atlanta are highly experienced in assessing a vast array of bone, joint, and muscle symptoms and are dedicated to helping patients determine the cause of their pain and realize quick, effective, and long-lasting relief.
Dont Miss: How Quickly Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Spread
Recommended Reading: What Causes Arthritis Flare Up In Knees
Which Type Of Health Care Provider To See
If youre having joint symptoms that cause concern, an appointment with a primary care practitioner is a good place to start. But sometimes arthritis is difficult to diagnose. You might need to see a specialist. Rheumatologists are specialists in arthritis and diseases that involve bones, muscles and joints. They are trained to make difficult diagnoses and to treat all types of arthritis, especially those requiring complex treatment. You may be referred to an orthopedist if you have a type of degenerative arthritis.
What To Expect During The Tests
You usually do not need to do anything before a blood test for RA, fasting is not required. Tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications that may affect your tests.
Wear a garment that allows access to your elbow area for the blood draw. Bring your identification. The healthcare professional drawing the blood will ensure your identification and label the blood draw sample tubes.
A tourniquet will be placed on your arm, the vein area sanitized, and a needle will be used to collect the blood into one or more vials.
After drawing the blood, the site will be bandaged. You should not have any side effects and usually do not need to take any precautions after the test.
These tests are sent to the lab rather than being done in the clinic as a rapid test. Your results will not be available immediately but will be reported to your healthcare provider in hours to a day or more.
Don’t Miss: What Organs Does Psoriatic Arthritis Affect
What Do Doctors Do
It’s not always easy for doctors to diagnose JIA right away. JIA itself can have lots of different symptoms, and some infections, like Lyme disease, have similar symptoms to JIA. So doctors will want to rule out any other possibilities before deciding something is JIA.
If a doctor suspects a patient has JIA, he or she will ask about the person’s symptoms, find out if others in the family have had arthritis, and do a complete physical examination to look for joint swelling, eye problems, and rashes. A doctor may do blood tests and X-rays. In some cases, doctors may use a needle to take a sample of synovial fluid from a person’s joint.
Sometimes, a doctor might need to see a patient for several months to determine the particular type of JIA the person has.
What’s New In Arthritis Research
Progress is so fast in some areas of arthritis research today that the media often report new findings before the medical journal with the information reaches your doctor’s office. As a result, you need to know how to evaluate reports on new arthritis research.
Arthritis researchers are looking at four broad areas of research. These include causes, treatments, education and prevention.
Researchers are learning more about certain conditions. For example in osteoarthritis, researchers are looking for signs of early destruction of cartilage and ways to rebuild it. For rheumatoid arthritis and other types that involve inflammation, researchers are trying to understand the steps that lead to inflammation and how it can be slowed or stopped. An initial study suggests that fibromyalgia affects more older people than originally thought and often may be overlooked in this group. Your doctor can tell you about other new research findings. If you would like to take part in arthritis research, ask your doctor for a referral to a study in your area.
Many people help make arthritis research possible. The federal government through its National Institutes of Health is the largest supporter of arthritis research. Drug companies do the most research on new medications.
Read Also: Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause Skin Problems
Spinal Arthritis Causes And Risk Factors
The causes of arthritis in the back or neck vary depending on the type of arthritis you have. Besides normal wear and tear and autoimmune triggers, in many cases the exact cause remains unknown. Genetic components have been identified in connection with some forms of spinal arthritis, meaning that it may be hereditary.
Other spinal arthritis risk factors include:
Presence of certain conditions such as diabetes, gout, psoriasis, tuberculosis, irritable bowel syndrome and Lyme disease
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:
You May Like: Is Cosentyx Approved For Psoriatic Arthritis