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.
How Common Is Rheumatoid Arthritis
In the UK alone, rheumatoid arthritis is known to affect more than 400,000 people and is most common in adults aged between 40 and 50 years old.
According to the NHS, women are three times more likely to be affected by this disease than men, though it can affect any gender at any age.
Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the immune system attacking healthy body tissue though there is no singular trigger which has been identified as the root cause of this
While there is currently no cure for this autoimmune disease either, there are ways to manage the common symptoms including joint pain, stiffness and fatigue.
Who Should Diagnose And Treat Ra
A doctor or a team of doctors who specialize in care of RA patients should diagnose and treat RA. This is especially important because the signs and symptoms of RA are not specific and can look like signs and symptoms of other inflammatory joint diseases. Doctors who specialize in arthritis are called rheumatologists, and they can make the correct diagnosis. To find a provider near you, visit the database of rheumatologistsexternal icon on the American College of Rheumatology website.
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Blood Tests For Rheumatoid Arthritis:
There are certain conditions more prevalent in those who have rheumatoid arthritis.
- Test checking for C-Reactive Protein . As has been earlier discussed, the most common feature of rheumatoid arthritis is inflammation. A result of a higher CRP level in your blood is a strong indicator of inflammation in the body.
- This is often paired with an erythrocyte sedimentation rate test, where it is timed as to how long it would take for ones red blood cells to reach the end of a test tube filled with liquid, which is another strong indicator of inflammation.
- Other blood tests that may help in diagnosing the disease include full blood count tests, which if concluded that one is anemic, could also help as anemia is very common in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
- Tests for rheumatoid factor and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies are also firm indicators of the disease.
The Signs And Symptoms Of Ra
Luckily, the signs and symptoms of early onset RA ARE heavily documented. Experts agree that the most common initial symptoms are as follows:
- You begin to experience a general feeling of pain or stiffness in your joints.
- Your joints begin to swell or turn red on a regular basis even when youre not engaged in heavily physical activities.
- These symptoms extend to four or more of your joints, including those in your hands and fingers.
- Your symptoms are symmetrical meaning that they equally affect both the left and right sides of your body.
- You experience a general sense of stiffness in your entire body when you wake up in the morning that often lasts for a half hour or more.
- Any of the above physical symptoms last for longer than six months in a row.
If you begin to experience any of these initial signs, you should absolutely consult your doctor to schedule a physical examination. Dont continue to ignore your body. Its trying to tell you something is wrong. Outside of the symptoms directly associated with RA, there are a number of indirect signs to be on the lookout for, too. These include, but are not limited to, ones like:
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Complications Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Because RA damages joints over time, it causes some disability. It can cause pain and movement problems. You may be less able to do your normal daily activities and tasks. This can also lead to problems such as depression and anxiety.
RA can also affect many nonjoint parts of the body, such as the lungs, heart, skin, nerves, muscles, blood vessels, and kidneys. These complications can lead to severe illness and even death.
Chest Pain/shortness Of Breath
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect blood vessels throughout the entire body, including the heart. People with RA are at a greater risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues. Additionally, shortness of breath could be a sign that something is wrong, such as a lung infection or inflammation. If you frequently find yourself running out of breath or suffering chest pain, please call a rheumatologist as soon as possible.
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How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Managed
Most people with RA can lead full and active lives. Taking control of RA will help you cope with its impact on your lifestyle. As there is no known cure, early diagnosis and treatment can control its symptoms and help prevent disability.
People with RA are usually looked after by several health professionals. This might include a general practitioner, a rheumatologist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist.
Treatment will be tailored to your symptoms. Options include:
- medicines to relieve symptoms or slow progress of the condition
- heat and cold treatments, such as warm baths, and hot or cold packs
- TENS electrical device, which is thought to reduce pain by stimulating the nerves
- surgery to correct joint problems
- supportive treatments such as physiotherapy
- exercise to keep your joints flexible and muscles strong
- complementary therapies such as relaxation techniques, massage, hypnosis or acupuncture
It is possible to use more than 1 of these approaches at the same time . The experience of pain is also unique to everybody, so what works for you may not work for someone else.
What Type Of Hand Surgery Is Most Commonly Performed On The Specific Joints Affected By Arthritis
- 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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What Are The Genetic Markers That Are Connected To Rheumatoid Arthritis
Generally, rheumatoid arthritis attacks many body joints at once. In a joint where RA IS affected, the lining becomes inflamed, causing damage to joint tissues. This tissue damage can lead to chronic pain, unsteadiness, and distortion.
Another arthritis that has similar symptoms and signs of RA is osteoarthritis . OA usually affects fewer joints and only one joint at once whereas RA can cause more widespread inflammation and severe damage to the body.
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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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.
One Types Of Arthritis In Hands
Rheumatoid arthritis is included in one of inflammatory arthritis types. The disease is mainly identified by joint inflammation in relatively chronic condition occurs in some part of the human body including knees, fingers, joints, and hands.
Rheumatoid arthritis is feared by most people since it can result in systemic illness that affects many organs of the human body.
However, there is no exact factor of symptoms of arthritis in hands found by scientists that becomes the cause of the disease till now.
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How Is Ra Diagnosed
RA is diagnosed by reviewing symptoms, conducting a physical examination, and doing X-rays and lab tests. Its best to diagnose RA earlywithin 6 months of the onset of symptomsso that people with the disease can begin treatment to slow or stop disease progression . Diagnosis and effective treatments, particularly treatment to suppress or control inflammation, can help reduce the damaging effects of RA.
Tenosynovitis In The Hands
In addition to encapsulating joints, synovial tissue also surrounds most tendons. Tendons connect muscles to bones. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause a tendonâs synovial sheath to become inflamed, a condition called tenosynovitis. The inflammation is not always painful but can lead to tendon damage.
In the hand, flexor tendons allow a person to bend their fingers. When a fingerâs flexor tendon is inflamed it can cause the middle knuckle to get stuck in a bent position. This condition is called trigger finger.
At least one study suggests that tenosynovitis of flexor tendons is a strong predictor of rheumatoid arthritis.5
Hand tenosynovitis from rhuematoid arthritis. Read Trigger Finger
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Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis
There is no cure for RA. But it is important to help keep your joints working well by reducing pain and inflammation. Work on a treatment plan with your healthcare provider that includes medicine and physical therapy. Work on lifestyle changes that can improve your quality of life. Lifestyle changes include:
- Activity and rest. To reduce stress on your joints, switch between activity and rest. This can help protect your joints and lessen your symptoms.
- Using assistive devices. Canes, crutches, and walkers can help to keep stress off certain joints and to improve balance.
- Using adaptive equipment. Reachers and grabbers let you extend your reach and reduce straining. Dressing aids help you get dressed more easily.
- Managing the use of medicines. Medicines for this condition have some risks. Work with your healthcare provider to create a plan to reduce this risk.
- Seeking support. Find a support group that can help you deal with the effects of RA.
What Is A Boutonniere Deformity
Boutonniere deformity, also called buttonhole deformity, can happen due to rheumatoid arthritis.
The middle finger joint will bend toward the palm while the outer finger joint may bend opposite the palm. It may be the result of chronic inflammation of the finger’s middle joint.
Treatment may include splinting to keep the middle joint extended. Some cases need surgery.
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How Can I Ease Hand And Finger Joint Pain
Regular exercise is very important to make your hands and fingers more flexible. You also need to rest painful joints. It helps to use hand or finger splints to ease pressure if your RA flares up.
To exercise your hands and fingers, you can use a soft foam ball like a Nerf ball . Squeeze it and then relax your hand muscles.
Ask an occupational therapist about gadgets and devices that may help make everyday activities easier, at home or on the job. For instance:
- Use hook and loop fasteners to replace buttons on clothing.
- Add accessories to doorknobs for easier turning.
- Use lamp switches that require just a touch to the lamp base rather than twisting a small knob switch.
- Try a long-handled shoehorn to put on your shoes so you donât have to bend over and stretch your hands.
- Use lightweight household utensils, pots, pans, cups, and dishes.
- Put foam padding around your pen or pencil. These are available at most office supply stores.
Learn about more hand and finger exercises you can do for RA
Medication For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Some of the medications you may take include:
- pain relievers , such as paracetamol, for temporary pain relief
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications , such as ibuprofen, to control inflammation and provide pain relief
- corticosteroids, such as prednisolone, to quickly control or reduce inflammation
- disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs , such as methotrexate, to control your overactive immune system
- biological and biosimilar medicines , such as infliximab these are biological disease-modifying drugs that work to control your immune system, but in a much more targeted way.
Depending on your particular symptoms, and how much pain and inflammation you have, you may take one medication or a combination of different medications.
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Causes Of Rheumatoid Arthritis In The Hands
Joints are susceptible to inflammation for people with rheumatoid arthritis. The nature of an autoimmune disease is to attack cells that the body thinks are dangerous.
White blood cells, called leukocytes, are sent out to the hand joints. These white blood cells trigger inflammation in the synovial joints, which are the joints that allow for movement.
Symptoms start when the immune system malfunctions and attacks the joints in the hands
What Does Rheumatoid Arthritis In The Hands Feel Like
When your hands are affected by rheumatoid arthritis, you may experience swelling around the affected joint, which leads to pain or tenderness. The joint may feel warm to the touch. Swelling tends to be symmetrical, which means it occurs in the same joints on both right and left hands.
Stiffness with immobility is characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis in the hands as well, says Lindsay S. Lally, MD, a rheumatologist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Symptoms like stiffness and pain are usually worse in the morning, and can last at least 30 minutes or more.
Together these hand symptoms can impair function and the ability to go about your daily routine and tasks.
This can manifest in difficulty using the fingers, decreased hand dexterity, inability to bend or straighten affected joints, and decreased strength, says Dr. Albayda. Sometimes RA can cause loosening of ligaments and tendons in the hands, resulting in permanent deformities of the hand, adds Dr. Lally. Evidence suggests that hand deformities commonly occur in the first year of rheumatoid arthritis if it goes untreated.
Some specific hand problems and deformities that can be caused or made worse by rheumatoid arthritis include:
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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.