What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis In The Hands
Early symptoms include:
- Dull or burning joint pain, appearing hours or a day after increased use of your hands.
- Morning pain and stiffness in your hand.
- Swollen joints in your hand.
If you’ve had arthritis in your hand for some time:
- Symptoms are present more often.
- Pain may change from dull ache to sharp pain.
- Pain may wake you up at night.
- Pain may cause you to change the way you use your hand.
- Tissue surrounding your affected joint may become red and tender to the touch.
- Youll feel grating, grinding, cracking or clicking when bending your fingers.
- Your fingers cant fully open and close.
- Small bony nodules form on the middle joint of your fingers or at the top joints of your fingers .
- Your finger joints become large and deformed and abnormally bent, leaving your hands weak and less able to accomplish everyday tasks.
How To Diagnose Arthritis In The Hands
Your doctor may rely on medical history, physical examination, and blood and imaging tests to determine the diagnosis.
- Physical examination: Swelling of the hands feels harder in osteoarthritis , whereas it is softer inrheumatoid arthritis .
- Blood test: It is performed to detect the presence of antibodies such as rheumatoid factor or anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide that help identify RA and other types of inflammatory arthritis.
- Imaging test:X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging scans may reveal joint erosion in RA and the presence of osteophytes and loss of cartilage in OA.
What To Expect From Your Doctor
First, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. During your physical exam, your doctor will examine your wrist for swelling, pain, and tenderness. The location of the swelling can tell your doctor which wrist joints are most affected. Problems in the wrist can affect peripheral tendons, causing tendonitis.
Next, your doctor will examine the range of motion of the wrist itself. This can show how mild or severe the arthritis is, or if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Your doctor will ask you to twist and flex both wrists in every direction. Finally, theyll manipulate your wrist and thumb joints and ask if you feel pain.
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Stick To Your Prescribed Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Plan
Medication that helps reduce out-of-control inflammation in the body is a cornerstone of rheumatoid arthritis treatment. Depending on the severity of your symptoms and how long youve had rheumatoid arthritis, your rheumatologist may prescribe a combination of medications. One of the major goals of treatment of RA is to prevent this structural damage that can result in loss of dexterity and strength in the hands, says Dr. Lally.
Commonly prescribed medications include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
These medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen or prescription versions, are used for mild joint pain and reduce inflammation but dont prevent disease progression.
These medications, such as prednisone, help reduce inflammation quickly and tend to be prescribed during flares. They used sparingly and carefully in people with RA because they can have a wide range of side effects.
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs
These medications address the underlying systemic inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. They are critical for slowing and stopping the course of inflammatory disease. They fall into three general categories.
The treatments that we have for RA both the conventional DMARDs such as methotrexate and the biologics and JAK inhibitors can help improve joint pain, swelling, and stiffness while preventing the development of long-term damage, adds Dr. Lally.
How To Get Rid Of Arthritis In Fingers
Arthritis of the fingers can be quite uncomfortable, causing symptoms such as joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. These symptoms make hand motions like grasping and pinching difficult, which restricts a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two types of arthritis that most commonly affect the finger joints. Depending on which type of arthritis affects your finger joints, you may experience additional symptoms.
Thankfully, numerous remedies can help alleviate the discomfort from arthritis of the fingers, from hand exercises to help strengthen your fingers to over-the-counter and prescription pain medications and surgical treatments.
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How Might Doctors Treat Arthritis In Hands
Doctors generally start with treatments that dont involve surgery to treat arthritis in the hand, reports the American Society for Surgery of the Hand . Temporarily resting the joint, and using a splint to help keep it in place might help. Exercising the joint is important, so your doctor might prescribe physical therapy.
Doctors might treat rheumatoid arthritis in the hand with medications. Steroid injections from time to time may provide relief from either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the hand, according to the ASSH.
In some cases, you might need surgery to treat the arthritis in your hands, notes the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. There are various types of surgery, such as fusion and joint replacement with an artificial joint. Fusion involves removing damaged joint surfaces and cartilage, and attaching one bone to another. You will no longer be able to move the fused joint, but your pain should be gone, according to the ASSH.
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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What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis In Hands
Some signs of arthritis in the hand may include:
- Weakness of the hand or thumb
- Nodules at the middle or end finger joints
Rheumatoid arthritis may also cause swelling, pain, or stiffness or it may have other symptoms, such as these listed by the American Society for Surgery of the Hand :
- Finger swollen in a sausage shape
- Fingers gradually moving away from the thumb
- A soft lump on the back of the hand
- A bent middle finger
- A creaking sound when you move your finger
Exercises That Help Relieve Arthritis In The Fingers And Hands
If someone is pain free, it is critical to keep joints in good range of motion. Simple shoulder shrugs, wrist, and finger range of motion exercises help keep joint range of motion, says physical therapist Charles J. Gulas, PT, PhD, GCS, dean of the School of Health Professions at Maryville University of St. Louis. Being pain free is the key, Gulas stresses, especially when doing exercises intended to build strength. When pain acts up, rest and pain management may be a better bet.
Try these range-of-motion exercises to keep your hands, fingers, and thumbs flexible and to ease symptoms of arthritis in the fingers and in the hands overall:
- Close your fist and then gradually open your hand, stretching your fingers out, then close slowly into a fist again.
- Make circle motions with your thumb, keeping it straight.
- Stretch your thumb away from the palm of your hand, then use it to touch each fingertip.
Repeat these exercises 3 to 10 times daily. Stop if you feel pain in a joint or if you’re experiencing additional pain once youre done. Some people find that doing these hand exercises under warm water is helpful. If you have osteoarthritis, you may need to wear a splint, wear a compression glove, or use another type of support to help reduce wear and tear on your joints during your daily activities. Ask your doctor or a physical therapist to recommend the type of device that may help you.
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Can Arthritis In The Hand Be Prevented
Arthritis cant be prevented. However, you can watch for symptoms of arthritis as you age and see your healthcare provider if you notice changes in your joints. You can also take steps to control factors that you can control. Eat healthy to nourish your body and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts more stress on your joints. Dont smoke. Smoking increases your risk of arthritis.
You Are Not Alone: Finding Support For Ra In The Hands
How does RA in your hands and fingers affect your daily life? Has your rheumatologist found the right medication to manage your symptoms? What helps you successfully get through each day? Share your tips and experiences in a comment below or on myRAteam. You’ll be surprised how many other members have similar stories.
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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 Can You Do To Manage The Pain From Arthritis In Your Hands
Home treatment may vary, depending on what type of arthritis you have in your hands and what your doctor determines is appropriate for you. Here are some of the ways your doctor might recommend to manage arthritis in the hands:
- Heat compresses
: Johns Hopkins Medicare health library, American Society for Surgery of the Hand
Doctors sometimes treat rheumatoid arthritis in the hands with prescription drugs, reports the ASSH.
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What Are The Signs Of Arthritis In My Hands And Fingers
Maybe it dawns on us when opening a jar becomes a challenge. Or when holding that tennis racquet doesnt feel like it used to. When stiff, swollen fingers make daily tasks difficult, arthritis may be the cause. The small joints of the fingers are the most arthritis-prone spot on your body. And while arthritis isnt the only cause of stiff fingers, its one of the big ones, especially in older adults.
Hand Osteoarthritis Home Remedies
These home treatments can help:
- Exercises. Your doctor or physical therapist can show you what to do to improve strength and range of motion and to ease pain.
- Assistive devices. Special pens, kitchen utensils, and other tools with big grips may be easier to use.
- Ice or heat. Ice may reduce swelling and pain. Heat, like a warm washcloth or a paraffin bath, can loosen stiff joints.
- Skin treatments. Medicated creams can give relief when you rub them on sore joints. Gels with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also help.
- Supplements. Many people take glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for OA. Researchers are still looking into whether they help. Ask your doctor if they’re OK to try.
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Ways To Manage Symptoms Of Arthritis In Your Hands
Quincy AdamArthritis Lifestyle
Both types of arthritis can cause pain and stiffness in your hands. Fortunately, there are various options for managing arthritis symptoms in your hands.
They range from simple lifestyle changes to complex surgeries. Your physician will help you decide which options are best for you.
Other Causes Of Hand And Finger Symptoms
RA hand symptoms can mimic those of other conditions, such as osteoarthritis. Some members of myRAteam discovered their hand pain was actually related to secondary Raynauds disease, a vascular condition that affects 10 percent to 20 percent of people with RA. Psoriatic arthritis, another autoimmune disease, can also cause hand and finger dysfunction as can pinched nerves in the neck.
A rheumatologist can diagnose the specific cause of symptoms in the hand with a physical exam and X-rays. X-rays can detect narrowing of joint space or erosions of the bone that could signal RA. Ultrasound and MRI technology has improved the ability to spot joint damage earlier in the course of the disease.
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Cold Or Discolored Fingers
People with RA are at a higher risk of developing another condition called Raynauds syndrome, which causes color and temperature changes in the fingers.
This issue occurs when the blood vessels in the fingers narrow and decrease even further in size. As a result of this, less blood flow is able to get through to your hands and fingers. Typically the effects of the syndrome are more severe in people whose Raynauds is the result of another condition like RA.
Individuals with Raynauds become extremely sensitive to cold temperatures and may notice their fingers turning a white or blueish color as the blood flow diminishes. Numbness, tingling, or sensitivity in the hands may also accompany these changes. In severe cases, ulceration of the skin or even gangrene can develop if your Raynauds is not properly treated by a healthcare provider.
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.
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Changes In Surrounding Joints
In patients with advanced thumb base arthritis, the neighboring joints may become more mobile than normal.
Thumb extension deformity. This patient has lost mobility at the base of the thumb due to arthritis. The next joint closer to the tip of the thumb has become more mobile than normal to make up for the arthritic joint. Normally, the thumb does not come to a right angle with the rest of the hand.
How Is Ra In The Hands Treated
Theres no cure for RA, but treatment can help reduce joint pain and swelling and improve the ability to perform day-to-day activities. For the most part, RA in the hands is managed with the same medications and treatment options used to treat rheumatoid arthritis in general. However, some treatments are specific to hand and finger RA.
See what rheumatologist Dr. Ashira Blazer says about managing pain and stiffness in fingers and wrists.
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What Does Arthritis Feel Like
Not everyone with arthritis will have the same symptoms. Development of symptoms depends on the type of arthritis and how severe your condition is. RA tends to produce long-lasting stiffness, swelling, and redness of the joints. People with RA may also feel fatigue, general discomfort, and lack of appetite.
Symptoms Of Arthritis In Hands And Fingers
While not everyone with arthritis in the joints in hands will experience all of these symptoms and some people may not even have anysymptoms at all, below are some common symptoms for hand arthritis:
- Joint pain. This is initially experienced as a dull, burning sensation after a particularly busy day. As arthritisadvances, the pain becomes sharper and more constant, even occurring at rest.
- Joint stiffness. This is common in the morning but also occurs after a long day of work or activity involving the hands
- Crepitus. This is a grinding, grating feeling or a crunchy sound in the hands or wrists on movement.
- Weakness. It can begin to get difficult to grasp an object or maintain a strong grip or pinch.
- Warmth or redness. It is common to feel warmth or redness where the joint, ligaments or tissues have become inflamed.
- Swelling. Swollen joints in fingers, hands and thumbs are very common and can lead to a puffier appearance.
- Loss of movement. Particularly as arthritis progresses, you may notice loss of movement in the affected joints.
- Joint shape. You may notice changes in joint shape, or a slight turn in the direction of a finger or thumb.This is usually caused by uneven wearing of cartilage or weakness surrounding tissues or ligaments.
- Knobbly or crooked fingers. Bone spurs can give a knobbly or crooked appearance to fingers and thumbs, and in some casescan also reduce the function of fingers or thumbs.
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