Who Gets Arthritis In Their Hands
You are more likely to get arthritis in your hands if:
- Youre older. Osteoarthritis is commonly seen after age 50. Rheumatoid arthritis typically first appears between the age of 35 and 50.
- Youre a woman.
- Youre white.
- Youre overweight.
- Youve had previous injuries to your hand. If youve dislocated or broken any joints in your hands or fingers, you are more likely to develop arthritis.
- You’ve inherited genes that cause the development of arthritis.
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.
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.
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How Is Hand Osteoarthritis Diagnosed
It’s often possible for your doctor to diagnose osteoarthritis of the hand from your symptoms and a simple examination, without any need for tests. Although x-rays will show changes in the shape or structure of the joint, they’re often not needed to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests are sometimes helpful if there’s any doubt about whether it’s osteoarthritis or another type of arthritis that’s causing your symptoms.
Sometimes gout can affect the hands and this can look very much like osteoarthritis. If your doctor thinks it may be gout then they’ll want to check your urate levels through a blood test. Urate is a waste product which is normally flushed out of the body through the kidneys. But if it builds up it can form crystals in the joints, leading to sever pain and swelling.
It’s less common for the joints where your fingers meet your hand to be affected by osteoarthritis, so if you have pain and swelling in these joints your doctor may ask for blood tests to check for rheumatoid arthritis.
Psoriatic arthritis can also affect the hands and may look similar to osteoarthritis. There are no blood tests et present for psoriatic arthritis, but this type of arthritis is linked to the skin condition psoriasis. Your doctor may therefore ask if you or anyone in your family have a history of skin problems.
About Rheumatoid Arthritis Of The Hand
Rheumatoid arthritis affects the cells that line and normally lubricate the joints . This is a systemic condition , which means that it may affect multiple joints, usually on both sides of the body. The joint lining becomes inflamed and swollen and erodes the cartilage and bone. The swollen tissue may also stretch the surrounding ligaments, which are the connective tissues that hold the bones together, resulting in deformity and instability. The inflammation may also spread to the tendons, which are the rope-like structures that link muscles to bones. This can result in stretching out of and ruptures of the tendons. Rheumatoid arthritis of the hand is most common in the wrist and the finger knuckles .
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What Are The Best Treatments For Arthritis In The Hands
There is a range of treatments for arthritis, from over-the-counter medications to surgery. The treatment you choose depends on the severity of your case. But in almost all cases, physical therapy/hand therapy can help.
Medications: In the early stages of arthritis, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen, which reduce pain and swelling in mild cases. As symptoms become more severe, you may move on to prescription anti-inflammatory medications.
Steroid injections are an effective anti-inflammatory that can treat pain, stiffness and swelling. Theyre usually injected directly into the joint and provide fast relief that can last for months.
Your orthopaedist may recommend a splint or brace for support, especially for arthritis at the base of the thumb.
Physical therapy or hand therapy is essential to treating arthritis of the hand and fingers. It can have an enormous impact both after surgery or as an alternative to surgery. Heat therapy and massage can help with pain, while range-of-motion and strengthening exercises restore mobility.
Can I Prevent Arthritis
While genetics is a factor in many arthritis diagnoses, there are some ways we can hold off or diminish the impact of arthritis:
Stay active: exercise helps keep your bones and joints healthy.
Eat a healthy diet: vitamins and minerals promote bone health, and great nutrition keeps weight down.
Maintain a healthy weight: obesity is a significant risk factor for arthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise helps keep joints healthy.
Avoid repetitive motions that can cause injury or wear and tear. This includes both work and recreational activities. Physical activity is an excellent way to promote joint health, but be sure to do it safely.
If you have a joint injury, include a high-quality physical therapy program in your healing process. This helps build strength, boosts mobility, and can help prevent arthritis down the road.
Treatment Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Treatment is designed to relieve pain and restore function. If you have rheumatoid arthritis in your hands, medications can help decrease inflammation, relieve pain and slow the progression of the disease. Anti-inflammatory medications, oral steroids, and/or cortisone injections may be used. Several disease-modifying treatments are now available, including anti-malarial drugs, methotrexate, cyclosporine, gold, and other new drugs that help suppress the bodys immune system to reduce the inflammation and pain. A rheumatologist will often prescribe and monitor these types of medications. Your physician may also refer you to a hand therapist for exercises, splints, treatments such as paraffin baths, and instruction on how to use your hands in ways that may help relieve pain and pressure and also protect your joints. Adaptive devices may help you cope with the activities of daily living.
Surgery to treat the arthritic joints includes removal of inflamed joint linings, joint replacements, joint fusions, and in some cases, removal of damaged bone. The specific procedure depends on a variety of factors, including the particular joint involved, the degree of damage present, the condition of adjacent joints, and your own needs. Your hand surgeon can help you decide on the most appropriate treatment for you.
Staying Physically Active Despite Hand Arthritis
Your doctor will tell you and probably has already that staying physically active is an important part of managing arthritis. In fact, according to a study of 5,715 adults with arthritis over age 65, a lack of regular, vigorous physical activity doubled the risk of functional decline. In other words, the less physically active the participants were, the more likely they were to become disabled.
Of course, despite data showing that physical activity helps people with arthritis become stronger and more flexible, anyone with arthritis will tell you that sometimes pain or stiffness makes it hard to get going, let alone lift weights at the gym. People with arthritis often give up activities they think of as optional, such as exercising or gardening, in order to have enough energy for the activities they feel obligated to do, such as cleaning the house. One study found that only 13 percent of men and 8 percent of women with arthritis met federal guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week.
If symptoms of arthritis in your hands or elsewhere are preventing you from participating in the physical activities you used to enjoy and that are good for you it may be time to find new ways to be active. For example, you may want to experiment with water activities such as swimming, or try tai chi, dance, or walking .
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Surgery For Hand Arthritis
Surgery is a last resort, but in patients with arthritis causing severe pain, it can be very successful. For arthritis affecting the base of the thumb , the most common surgical procedure is removal of a bone called the trapezium and reconstruction of the joint with tendons and/or sutures. After surgery, your hand will be placed in a splint or cast while it heals, and then you will receive regular hand therapy to help regain strength and function.
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.
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See A Physical Or Occupational Therapist
Your doctor may refer you to a physical or occupational therapist to help maintain hand function and dexterity and strengthen joints, say experts. Depending on your needs, a therapist may give you exercises to improve range of motion and function in your hand and wrist, recommend the use of splints or braces to help support joints and ease stress, and suggest new ways to do everyday tasks that may help relieve pain and protect your joints.
Here are some arthritis-friendly hand exercises you can do regularly.
Recognizing Symptoms Of Arthritis In The Hands
Women are more likely than men to have arthritis in their hands, and often people experience arthritis symptoms in their hands before other signs of arthritis show up. Different forms of arthritis affect the hands in different ways. For example, psoriatic arthritis, a type of arthritis related to the skin condition psoriasis, is most likely to cause pain in the joints closest to the fingernails , while in osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, cartilage can wear down in all the joints in the fingers and thumb. Symptoms of arthritis in the hands may include:
- Pain in some or all of the joints, including joints of the fingers, wrists, and thumbs
- The growth of bony knobs on finger joints
- Numbness in fingers
- Swollen, red, or warm joints
- Stiffness in the fingers, especially in the morning in patients who have rheumatoid arthritis
- Growth of lumps, or nodules, under the skin of the hands in patients with rheumatoid arthritis
- Fingers that look like swollen sausages in patients with psoriatic arthritis
- Difficulty with motions that require gripping and twisting, such as opening jars
The progression of arthritis in the hands can actually be measured. People with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis lose bone density, which can be measured with bone-density scanning, while the joint damage of osteoarthritis can usually be seen on X-rays.
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How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Your Hands
Many joints are covered with a lining called the synovium, which lubricates the joint so it moves more easily. When you have rheumatoid arthritis, the synovium becomes inflamed, thickens, and produces an excess of joint fluid. This is known as synovitis. That extra fluid along with the inflammatory chemicals released by the immune system causes swelling, damages cartilage, and softens the bone within the joint. The swollen tissue may stretch the surrounding ligaments, resulting in deformity and instability, according to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. The inflammation may also weaken and damage tendons. Ligaments are connective tissues that join two bones tendons are connective issues that join muscle to bone.
When RA strikes the hand, it is most common in the wrist and finger knuckles more specifically the MCP joint, or the large knuckle where the fingers and thumb meet the hand, and the PIP joint, or middle knuckle, explains Jemima Albayda, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.
The first knuckle at the top of the finger closest to the nails the DIP, or distal interphalangeal joint is generally spared in RA. In the wrist, RA often affects the joint between the two bones of the forearm, the radius and ulna.
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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Hallmark Symptoms Of Ra In The Fingers Thumbs And Wrists
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of RA in the hands can help distinguish rheumatoid arthritis from other types of arthritis that affect the hand, such as osteoarthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Keep in mind that these symptoms may be accompanied by pain in other joints as well as fever, fatigue, and a general feeling of being unwell.
Other Conditions That Can Cause Hand Pain Include:
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Rheumatoid arthritis can raise your risk of this condition, but many other factors can contribute as well, including anatomy of your wrist, nerve-damaging diseases and possibly repetitive hand motions. Its tricky because you could have carpal tunnel syndrome that is related to RA or not at all related to RA.
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Rheumatoid Arthritis And Hands
Rheumatoid arthritis often starts in smaller joints such as in the hand or wrist. One of the early signs of RA in the hands is aninability to form a complete fist.
It usually occurs in a symmetrical pattern, affecting both hands including the knuckle joints, middle finger joints and wrists. People withlong-standing RA or those diagnosed later in life may notice a deviation of their fingers to the side, away from the thumb.
Surrounding tendons can also become inflamed, affecting the ability to straighten fingers. People with RA are also more susceptible todeveloping carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition caused by pressure on nerves that run through the wrist, with symptoms of numbness, pins andneedles, and pain.
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.
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What Is Osteoarthritis Of The Hand
- The base of your thumb, where it meets your wrist
- One of the joints closest to your fingertips
- The middle joint of a finger
There’s no cure, but there are a lot of ways to protect your joints and feel better.
Without treatment, osteoarthritis gets worse over time. Itâs important to get a diagnosis and a treatment plan as soon as possible.
Treatment For Hand Arthritis In The Greater Chesapeake
If you have a hand injury or chronic condition such as arthritis, turn to the experts at Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder. Our team of hand experts have a profound understanding of the complex networks of blood vessels, nerves, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones that make up the hand and fingers.
We understand how important pain-free hand and finger motion and function is to daily activities, including work, self-care, sports, and leisure. Our orthopedic and plastic surgeons specialize in hand surgery, and we can offer state-of-the-art nonsurgical and surgical care to treat a full range of hand and finger injuries and conditions.
Call us today to schedule a consultation with our at or request an appointment online now for any of our Greater Chesapeake locations. We look forward to helping you feel less pain in your hands and regain hand motion and function, so you can get back to doing what you love.
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