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What Can You Do For Rheumatoid Arthritis In Your Hands

What Are The Causes Of Hand Arthritis

9 Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Hands, by Dr. Andrea Furlan

The exact cause of hand arthritis is unknown. The condition usually develops due to wear and tear of the joint, which occurs gradually over time.

Theres also a genetic component to hand OA. Family members may develop OA at a younger age than the general population, and may have more severe disease.

A healthy joint has cartilage at the end of the bone that cushions and allows smooth movement. In OA, cartilage deteriorates, exposing the underlying bone, which triggers joint pain and stiffness.

Your risk for OA increases if you:

  • have a family member who also has degenerative joint pain of the hands
  • have a job that requires a lot of hand work such as manufacturing
  • have had a hand injury

The more you use your hands, the more wear and tear you place on the joints and the cartilage that supports them.

Theres also a higher risk factor for hand arthritis if youre female. Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.

People born with malformed joints or defective cartilage are also more likely to develop this condition.

Diagnosing hand arthritis involves an evaluation and tests. Your doctor will check the joints in your hand for signs of OA.

Signs include:

  • limited range of motion

In some cases, your doctor will also order an X-ray to look for cartilage loss and other signs of damage. This can indicate arthritis of the hand and that they should look for potential bone spurs and erosions.

Rarely, your doctor might order an MRI to look more closely at your bones and soft tissue.

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 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.

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Arthritis In Hands And Fingers

The process of osteoarthritis is complex. It affects bone, cartilage, soft tissue, and the connective tissue in your joints.

Osteoarthritis wears away the articular cartilage in a joint. Cartilage is the cushioning material between bones. This wearing away can cause swelling and irritation of the synovial lining, which produces the synovial fluid that helps protect and lubricate the joint.

When osteoarthritis affects the joints of your hands or fingers, it can cause:

  • joint deformity

The pain can get worse whenever you use your hand for repetitive tasks. For example, typing on a computer keyboard or gripping utensils in the kitchen can cause discomfort. You may also lose strength in your hands. This weakness can make it hard to do everyday tasks, such as opening jars.

Some medication options may help treat hand arthritis. For example, you can take oral pain-relieving medications.

You can also get steroid injections in your joints or splint your hands to give them support. If these options dont work, surgery may help to reduce pain.

Home treatments can also help to reduce the pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis in your hands and fingers.

Hand and finger exercises can be a noninvasive way to:

  • keep your joints flexible
  • improve range of motion
  • relieve arthritis pain

Hand exercises can help strengthen the muscles that support the hand joints. This can help you perform hand movements with less discomfort.

  • Place the ball on a flat surface such as a table.
  • Release the ball.
  • When To See A Healthcare Provider

    How To Treat Arthritis In Hands

    If you suspect you may have RA or if you have any of the symptoms listed above, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider. As mentioned previously, RA can lead to significant issues in the lungs, eyes, nerves, and blood vessels. In fact, it may even lead to death overtime if left untreated.

    Fortunately, RA can be effectively treated with the proper medication in a large percentage of individuals. Because of this, it is crucial to be evaluated by a qualified practitioner who is skilled in treating 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.

    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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    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.

    Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services.Policy

    Osteoarthritis Of The Hand

    7 Helpful Hand Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Beginner Hand Workout

    Osteoarthritis often affects three main areas of your hand:

    • the base of your thumb
    • the joints closest to your fingertips
    • the middle joints of your fingers

    Your fingers may become stiff, painful and swollen and you may develop bumps on your finger joints. Over time, the pain may decrease and eventually disappear altogether, although the bumps and swelling can remain.

    Your fingers may bend sideways slightly at your affected joints or you may develop painful cysts on the backs of your fingers.

    In some cases, you may also develop a bump at the base of your thumb where it joins your wrist. This can be painful and you may find it difficult to perform some manual tasks, such as writing, opening jars or turning keys.

    Page last reviewed: 19 August 2019 Next review due: 19 August 2022

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    Soak And Exercise Hands In Warm Water

    Many people with hand OA report that soaking their hands in warm water in the morning assists in decreasing the stiffness.

    Begin by filling a clean sink or large basin with warm water.

    If swelling is also noted, add approximately ¼ cup of Epsom salt to the water to assist in decreasing the swelling.

    While soaking the hands, gently perform range-of-motion exercises, such as opening and closing the fingers and spreading the fingers apart and then back together.

    If you notice hand stiffness during a time when soaking is not an option, you can perform the same range-of motion exercises under running water.

    Which Joints In The Hands Are Affected By Ra

    The joints that connect your fingers to your hands are among the ones most often affected. You are also likely to experience symptoms in the the joints between your wrist and forearms and the middle knuckles in your fingers. The outermost joints are the least likely to be affected by RA. Usually, people will not start feeling pain there until the joints further down the hand have been affected.

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    Hand Pain Is Worse With Activity

    This type of hand pain tends to occur in osteoarthritis , a degenerative disorder where the cartilage that cushions the end of a joint breaks down over time. Joint symptoms of OA are more likely to be exacerbated by repetitive or overuse and effort, explains Dr. Lally for example, gardening or crafting.

    In RA, on the other hand, pain and stiffness tend to come with lack of use and after periods of inactivity, such as when you wake up in the morning after being still all night.

    Another way to distinguish the two: swelling in your hand and wrist is hard and bony in OA boggy and squishy in RA, says Dr. Albayda.

    Lumpy Bumpy Swollen Or Red The Signs Are Similar But They Indicate Different Types Of Arthritis Conditions

    Home Remedies for Arthritis in Hands

    What happened to your thumb or fingers? Those versatile tools that always enabled you to skillfully button a shirt, open a jar, or tap out your thoughts on a keyboard are now stiff, hurting, and even changing shape.

    Arthritis is most likely the problem, and its effects can compromise your independence. The American College of Rheumatology has a campaign on how arthritis and other rheumatic conditions affect lives, and the symbol is a fork with twisted tines. That sums it up. Using a fork or doing any simple task can become difficult, whether its using your cellphone, typing, grooming, cooking, or eating, says Dr. Jeffrey Sparks, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a rheumatologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Womens Hospital.

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    What Is Osteoarthritis

    Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and the hand and wrist joints are among the most commonly affected. A joint is a part of the body where two or more bones meet. The ends of the bones are covered in a smooth and slippery surface, known as cartilage. This allows the bones to move smoothly against each other and protects the joint from stress.

    Everyone’s joints go through a cycle of damage and repair, and often the repair process is quite effective. But sometimes it can cause changes in the shape or structure of the joints.

    Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage in your joints to thin and the surfaces of the joint to become rougher, which means that the joints may not move as smoothly as they should, and they might feel painful and stiff.

    You may have firm, knobbly swellings at the finger joints. These are known as Heberden’s nodes or Bouchard’s nodes depending on which joints are affected. They’re caused by the growth of bony spurs called osteophytes.

    Osteoarthritis can affect anyone at any age, but it’s more common in women over the age of 50.

    Some of the factors that can make you more likely to develop osteoarthritis in your hands include:

    • carrying out repetitive tasks over a long period of time.

    What Is A Swan

    This happens when the base of the finger and the outermost joint bend, while the middle joint straightens. Over time, this imbalance of the finger joints can result in the crooked âswan-neckâ position. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause it.

    A swan-neck deformity can make it almost impossible to bend the affected finger normally. It can make it hard to button shirts, grip a glass, or pinch with the fingers.

    Treatment may include:

    • Finger splints or ring splints
    • Surgery to realign the joints or fuse the joints so they work better

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    Adopt Joint Protection Techniques

    During a flare-up, its important to protect the joint that has arthritis, and hand therapy can help you learn how to do that effectively, Balster said. For example, to relieve arthritis pain, you can:

    • Use larger joints to do the work carrying a bag with the elbow or shoulders rather than with the fingers, for example
    • Resting the joint and taking breaks when youre doing repetitive tasks
    • Pushing an object, rather than pulling or carrying it

    Changes In Surrounding Joints

    How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed? | Johns Hopkins Rheumatology

    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.

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    Visit An Occupational Therapist

    There is no cure for arthritis, so treatment aims to manage symptoms, reduce pain, prevent joint damage, and increase mobility. It is essential to keep the wrist joints mobile to prevent additional damage. Occupational therapists are trained to help you strengthen your hand and wrist joints and help improve your hand dexterity. They want to know about your daily activities such as school, homemaking, work, things like laundry or anything that might become challenging, no matter how large or small.. they can help you with tools that help with your grooming and make it less painful. They will suggest a few wardrobe adjustments that make getting dressed easier. They will give you suggestions on arranging your kitchen to minimize hand strain. They will help with hand dexterity so you can do your crafts or play an instrument. Your primary care doctor, a rheumatologist should be able to refer you to a licensed occupational therapist and some, like Tristate, have them in-house.

    What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis

    The exact cause of RA is not known. RA is an autoimmune disorder. This means the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. This causes inflammation in and around the joints. This may damage the skeletal system. RA can also damage other organs, such as the heart and lungs. Researchers think certain factors, including heredity, may be a factor.

    RA most often occurs in people from ages 30 to 50, but it can occur at any age. It happens more in women than in men.

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    What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis

    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:

    Berries Apples And Pomegranates

    Rheumatoid Arthritis (Amavata)

    Berries are rich in antioxidants and the Arthritis Foundation notes that blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries and boysenberries all provide arthritis-fighting power. Youll get health benefits no matter if you eat them frozen, fresh or dehydrated , so be sure to eat a variety of berries throughout the week.

    Apples are also high in antioxidants and a good source of fiber. Plus, they provide crunch and can help curb your appetite for unhealthy snacks, Dunn says.

    Pomegranates, which are classified as berry fruits, are rich in tannins which can fight the inflammation of arthritis. Add these to a salad or stir into plain yogurt for some added benefits.

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