How Does Ra Affect The Hands And Fingers
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the joint lining or synovium the tissue that produces fluid to help joints move smoothly. The resulting stiffness, swelling, joint damage, and deformities make it difficult to use the hands. When joint damage becomes severe, it can lead to complete loss of joint function and the need for joint replacement surgery.
RA typically starts in the small joints of the hands. Joints most commonly affected are the proximal interphalangeal and metacarpophalangeal joints better known as knuckles. RA hand symptoms can include:
- Creaking sounds during movement
- Overextended middle joint and bent fingertip
- Thumb flexing at the MCP joint and hyperextending at the PIP joint
What Can I Do To Decrease Hand Arthritis Symptoms
Osetoarthritis involves degeneration of a joint or joints due to excessive wear and tear. While OA can affect joints throughout the body, it commonly affects those in the hand. People with hand OA often report feeling generalized pain and morning stiffness in the joints. In regard to appearance, people with hand OA often have enlarged knuckles and excessive bone growth on the sides of the fingers.
Although hand arthritis symptoms may be quite severe, there are many simple remedies that can help one decrease pain and stiffness.
Your Ra Is In Remission Now What
With aggressive treatment, RA can go into remission (no visible signs or symptoms. Learn if its possible to take less medication or even a drug holiday.
Your RA is in Remission! Now What?
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis , but remission can feel like it. Today, early and aggressive treatment with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and biologics makes remission more achievable than ever before. But how likely are you to reach remission, and how likely are you to sustain it? And when you reach it, do you stay on your medications or go off them?
When remission in RA was first defined 1981, it was characterized as elimination of all disease. Thats a very hard target. Were more likely to be able to reach limited or small amount of disease, explains David T. Felson, MD, professor of medicine at Boston University and a practicing rheumatologist.
With that in mind, the American College of Rheumatology and the European League Against Rheumatism developed criteria for defining remission so researchers could compare the effectiveness of different treatment regimens.
Definitions of Remissionin Rheumatoid Arthritis
These criteria are used by scientists when conducting clinical trials. Your rheumatologist may use these or slightly different measures to determine if your disease is in remission:
One or fewer swollen joints
One or fewer tender joints
The Odds of Remission
Should You Take a Drug Holiday?
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Diagnosing Hand And Finger Arthritis
First, its important to correctly diagnose hand or finger arthritis, advises Dr. Newsum. Sometimes, patients experience hand or finger pain or stiffness and assume its arthritis, but there are other conditions that can cause these symptoms, he adds.
In addition to arthritis, two other common causes of hand and finger pain include trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Trigger finger is a tendonitis of the fingers flexor tendons, whereas carpal tunnel is caused by compression of a nerve in the hand, explains Dr. Newsum.
Carpal tunnel usually causes numbness, tingling or electric shooting nerve sensations in the hands that can be worse at night or aggravated by certain activities, but it can present without numbness and be mistaken for arthritis, too.
With trigger finger, pain is usually experienced in the palm of the hand at the base of the fingers. The finger can click and even get stuck in a particular position or just may cause stiffness with difficulty bending the fingers.
Clicking or sticking of a finger is a distinct symptom of trigger finger and not arthritis, clarifies Dr. Newsum.
How The Ssa Determines Disability With Arthritis
In the case of arthritis, you must receive medical treatment for at least three months before the SSA will make a determination regarding the extent and severity of your condition and whether or not it qualifies you for Social Security Disability benefits.
No matter where you develop arthritis, whether in your hands, feet, knees or back, if you have medical evidence to support your claim, you may be eligible for disability benefits. You will also need to meet financial requirements to qualify for disability benefits.
Follow the steps below to find out if you qualify for Social Security disability benefits due to your arthritis.
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What You Need To Know
- Arthritis is damage to the cartilage in joints. Shoulder arthritis occurs when the cartilage starts wearing down on the ball and/or socket sides of the shoulder joint.
- Symptoms of shoulder arthritis may include pain in the shoulder joint, stiffness and reduced range of motion.
- There are many nonoperative treatments for shoulder arthritis, including stretches, lifestyle modifications, application of ice or heat, and medication to control the pain.
- Surgical options, such as shoulder replacement, are available to treat shoulder arthritis if nonoperative treatments dont offer the desired relief.
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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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.
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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Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Management
While the overall goal of rheumatoid arthritis therapy is to prevent disease progression and further joint damage, pain management is a necessary daily practice for patients, in order to maximize their quality of life. Chronic pain can adversely affect a patients ability to work, participate in physical and social activities, and can generally interrupt day-to-day life.
Despite medications and aggressive forms of treatment, many rheumatoid arthritis patients experience ongoing pain and stiffness. The reality is, it may never completely go away. But there are specific things patients can do to manage pain and limit its impact on their lives.
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Is It Safe To Get The Covid
The short answer: Yes. Having rheumatoid arthritis is not a contraindication the vaccine. In fact, getting the vaccine when you have rheumatoid arthritis may be especially important, given the disease may put you at higher risk for COVID-19 or severe outcomes.
Many patients with autoimmune conditions who take medications that affect immune system function are concerned that certain vaccines could give them the virus. This could theoretically occur with vaccines like the MMR vaccine for measles and mumps, which is a live vaccine. That means it is a weakened form of the virus intended to cause a harmless infection that your immune system rapidly eliminates.
However, none of the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the U.S. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are live vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccine cannot infect you with coronavirus. It is safe for people with rheumatoid arthritis, including those who take immunosuppressant medication.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the only contraindications to receiving the COVID-19 are:
- Severe allergic reaction after a previous dose or to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a previous dose or known allergy to a component of the vaccine. See the ingredients in each vaccine here.
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Make A Few Wardrobe Changes
Minor changes to your wardrobe can reduce strain on your hands, helping to ease your overall pain and stiffness. For example, try wearing:
- Shoes that slip on or use Velcro rather than shoelaces
- Shirts that pull over the head rather than button up
- Pants that have elastic waistbands rather than snaps and zippers
Other lifestyle changes can also be helpful. For example, when cooking, use a jar opener, lightweight pots and pans, and kitchen utensils with large handles. An occupational therapist can give you additional ideas on how to reduce strain on hand joints.
Why Its Important To Trust A Hand And Finger Expert
When youre looking for an expert to guide you to the answers and relief you need, its important to trust a doctor with specialized knowledge and training.
When asked about his expertise and training, Dr. Newsum explained, Two important things to look for in your surgeon are whether they are fellowship-trained and board-certified in their specialty. Meeting the requirements means your doctor has had very specific training in the anatomy, pathophysiology, treatments and the latest nonsurgical surgical techniques to heal a number of conditions that affect the arm, hand and fingers, and that they are up to date on the latest treatments. I focus my time on my specialty exclusively in order to provide evidence-based treatment to both adults and children and deliver expert, compassionate care.
And when asked why he loves to do what he does, Dr. Newsum described two motivating factors: excellent mentors throughout his training and career, and helping people quickly regain their functioning again.
Dr. Newsum concludes, We use our hands for everything, so I get to make an impact in peoples lives that makes a big difference. I really think my specialty and subspecialty reflect the core of values of modern medicine: to reduce pain and restore function.
If youre experiencing pain or stiffness in your fingers or hands, turn to our experts for help. Learn more about AdventHealths Hand to Shoulder Center experts.
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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.
Tips For Preventing Arthritis
There is no known cure for arthritis. In fact, most treatments for arthritis are aimed at early recognition and prevention. Genetics can increase your likelihood for developing arthritis, as can a strong family history of the disease. Women are also more prone to arthritis than men.
You may try to prevent arthritis and still develop the disease. However, you can take actions to reduce your risk:
- Maintain a healthy weight. This can help to fight off OA.
- Dont smoke, or quit smoking. This may reduce your chance of developing RA.
- Try to avoid injury when playing sports or participating in recreational activities.
- If your job requires a lot of pushing, pulling, or lifting of heavy objects, take precautions to avoid injury to your joints.
- If your job calls for a lot of typing, practice good posture. If necessary, get a special keyboard, wrist cushion, or pad.
Hand Exercises To Ease Arthritis Pain
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When arthritis affects the joints of the hands, it can cause pain and stiffness. That pain can get worse whenever you use your hand a lot 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.
Weakness in your hands can make it hard to do even the simplest everyday tasks, such as opening jars.
Hand Osteoarthritis Causes And Risk Factors
Osteoarthritis was once thought to happen because of wear and tear on your joints. Doctors now know thereâs more to the story.
On the ends of your bones, there’s a layer of smooth material called cartilage. It helps cushion your joints and allows them to slide easily. But over time, the cartilage gets worn down. The bones rub against each other, causing the symptoms of OA. The wear and tear can also cause other tissues in the joint to make inflammatory cells, which damage it more.
Certain things can make you more likely to have hand OA:
- Age. The older you are, the higher your odds.
- Sex. Compared with men, women are twice as likely to get it.
- Ethnicity. Rates are lower in African Americans.
- Weight. Thinner people are less likely to get it than those who have obesity.
- Injuries. This includes broken and dislocated bones.
- Changes in your genes. Your parents might have passed down a higher chance of OA.
- Joint problems. This includes infections, loose ligaments, overuse, and joints that arenât aligned the way they should be.
What causes flare-ups?
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Use Proper Desk Posture While Typing
The Next Steps To Take
Statistically, your best chance of having a Social Security Disability case approved because of arthritis comes during your hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
During this hearing, you will be allowed to have representation, and will also be allowed to make your case in person regarding why your arthritic condition keeps you from being able to work. You will also be allowed to bring witnesses who can testify on your behalf regarding the effects your condition has had on your ability to work.
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