What Causes Thumb Arthritis
Joints are connections between two or more bones. A normal joint is made of two smooth, cartilage-covered bone surfaces that fit well together and glide when the body moves. But if the smooth surface wears outoften, just from the wear and tear that comes with agethen the bone surfaces no longer fit together and arthritis can develop.
There are many different types of arthritis, but the kind that most often affects the thumb is osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage inside your joints starts to break down, causing changes in the bone that typically start slowly and worsen over time.
An injury to the thumb raises the likelihood that you will develop thumb arthritis. Other conditions, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, might also cause deterioration of the basal joint.
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What Will Happen If You Ignore It For Too Long
Make no mistake, if not addressed for too long, the situation will become progressively worse. The joint pain will worsen if not treated and, soon, the situation might become so bad that it becomes visible even to a layman. For those who still might need some convincing that the situation is serious, it might be worth looking up what the hand may start to look like if things escalate.
Those Aches In Your Hands Could Be Arthritis Heres What Can Help
Maybe one day you wake up with an ache in your fingers or at the base of your thumb. Or you feel a stab of pain when you pick up a dinner plate, cut your fingernails or turn a doorknob. You wonder if maybe you overdid it weeding your garden, or you have an overuse injury from computer work.
A lot of different things can cause hand pain, and one of them is osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease. Anyone can develop it, and your risk is higher if you are over 50 and female.
Brittany Panico, DO, a rheumatologist at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix, explained that if you have this type of arthritis in your hands, youll often feel it when you pinch or grip things. It most commonly affects the first two joints below your fingernails and the joint at the base of your thumb.
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How Is Arthritis Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will take your medical history and give you a physical exam. Tests may also be done. These include blood tests such as:
Antinuclear antibody test. This checks antibody levels in the blood.
Complete blood count . This checks if your white blood cell, red blood cell, and platelet levels are normal.
Creatinine. This test checks for kidney disease.
Sedimentation rate. This test can find inflammation.
Hematocrit. This test measures the number of red blood cells.
RF and CCP antibody tests. These can help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. They can also assess how severe the disease is.
White blood cell count. This checks the level of white blood cells in your blood.
Uric acid. This helps diagnose gout.
Other tests may be done, such as:
Joint aspiration . A small sample of synovial fluid is taken from a joint. It’s tested to see if crystals, bacteria, or viruses are present.
X-rays or other imaging tests. These can tell how damaged a joint is.
Urine test. This checks for protein and different kinds of blood cells.
HLA tissue typing. This looks for genetic markers of ankylosing spondylitis.
Skin biopsy. Tiny tissue samples are removed and checked under a microscope. This test helps to diagnose a type of arthritis that involves the skin, such as lupus or psoriatic arthritis.
Muscle biopsy. Tiny tissue samples are removed and checked under a microscope. This test helps to diagnose conditions that affect muscles.
Lumpy Bumpy Swollen Or Red The Signs Are Similar But They Indicate Different Types Of Arthritis Conditions
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 Are The Risk Factors For Arthritis In The Hand
The most common risk factor for developing hand arthritis is age. As we get older, the cartilage in our heavily used joints wears down, causing osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis typically occurs in people over the age of 50 years.
Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, but for females, it occurs between the ages of 30 and 60 years. It does not usually occur in males under the age of 45 years.
Females are three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than males.
Other risk factors for hand arthritis include:
- experiencing trauma or injury to the joints, such as fractures
- being overweight or having obesity
- having an infection in the joint
- overusing the joint with repetitive movements
If you feel at risk of developing hand arthritis, contact your doctor about steps you can take to minimize risks and slow down the onset of the condition.
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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How Arthritis Of The Hand Is Diagnosed
Your doctor will examine you and determine whether you have similar symptoms in other joints and assess the impact of the arthritis on your life and activities. The clinical appearance of the hands and fingers helps to diagnose the type of arthritis. X-rays will also show certain characteristics of rheumatoid arthritis, such as narrowing of the joint space, swelling and diminished bone density near the joints, and erosions of the bone. If your doctor suspects rheumatoid arthritis, he or she may request blood or other lab tests to confirm the diagnosis.
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Which Joints In The Hand Are Affected
The index and middle fingers and the thumb are the parts of the hand most commonly affected. Many people find that the hand they use most is affected more than the other.
When the fingers are affected, it may be in the joints closest to the fingernails or the ones in the middle of the fingers. Its less common to have osteoarthritis in the large knuckle joints, where the fingers meet the hand.
The joint at the base of the thumb can also be affected by osteoarthritis. And occasionally the wrist joint may be affected.
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Heres What Causes Hand Arthritis
You have a layer of cartilage that helps protect your bones, and over time, this cartilage wears down. Areas of tension develop on your bone, and you develop something like a callous or bone spur. Thats why knuckles with arthritis are bigger. This excess bone makes your joint feel stiff and swollen and reduces your mobility.
While aging is the main factor in developing arthritis, some things can worsen it. If youve had a joint injury or surgery in the past, arthritis might develop faster. You may also be more likely to develop arthritis if you use vibrating equipment like jackhammers or power drills.We dont know if there is a link between long-term computer work and arthritis, but people who use their hands for extended periods of time may notice more joint stiffness as they get older, Dr. Panico said.
Osteoarthritis Of The Hand Fact Sheet
|How do people get arthritis in their hands?||Arthritis of the hand can be caused by age, repetitive motion, and often trauma in younger sufferers.|
|Can I treat my hand arthritis at home?||The most effective home treatments for Arhthritis of the hand are physical therapy, rest, and icing|
|What medications are effective at combating or treating arthritis of the hand?||Medications used to treat arthritis include acetaminophen, NSAIDs, and steroid injections|
|Is hand arthritis something I’m stuck with for life?||If it is not treated effectively and steps taken to avoid getting worse, yes, it can be.|
|What are some treatments for hand arthritis?||Conservative medications, or surgery consisting of joint fusion|
|Can food affect Arthritis of the Hand?||Yes, certain food increase the risk of inflammation, which can exacerbate arthritis|
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Treatment Goals: Manage Pain And Improve Function
Osteoarthritis treatment plans often include exercise, rest and joint care, pain relief, weight control, medicines, surgery, and complementary treatment approaches. Current treatments for osteoarthritis can relieve symptoms such as pain and disability, but there are no treatments that can cure the condition.
Although health care professionals can prescribe or recommend treatments to help you manage your arthritis, the real key to living well with the disease is you. Research shows that people with osteoarthritis who take part in their own care report less pain and make fewer doctor visits. They also enjoy a better quality of life.
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 tendons 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 fingers 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.5Eshed I, Feist E, Althoff CE, et al. Tenosynovitis of the flexor tendons of the hand detected by MRI: an early indicator of rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatology 48 : 887-891 first published online May 27, 2009 doi:10.1093/rheumatology/kep136
Inflammation of the flexor tendon or tendon sheath in the hand can lead to trigger finger and may be an early indicator of rheumatoid arthritis. Read Trigger Finger
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What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The carpal tunnel is on the palm side of your wrist, surrounded by bones and ligaments. It protects the main nerve to your hand, known as the median nerve, as well as the nine tendons that bend your fingers. The median nerve provides sensation to the palm side of your thumb and fingers, except your little finger. It also provides nerve signals to move the muscles around the base of your thumb.
Carpal tunnel syndrome stems from anything that crowds, irritates or compresses the median nerve, such as a wrist fracture, swelling or inflammation. This condition causes tingling and numbness in your fingers and hand, often when youre holding a steering wheel, phone or newspaper. This sensation can even wake you up from sleeping and may extend from your wrist up your arm.
When carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers experience this sensation, they often shake out their hands to relieve this symptom. This disorder usually starts gradually, with the numbness and tingling coming and going. As it progresses, the numb feeling may become constant.
With carpal tunnel syndrome, you may also feel weakness in your hand and have a tendency to drop things youre holding. This symptom can be caused by the numbness or weakness of the thumbs pinching nerve, which is controlled by the median nerve.
Preventing Arthritis In Your Hands
Some risk factors for arthritis are not modifiablesuch as aging and family history. But there are also risk factors within your control. You can reduce your risk for arthritis conditions by managing those. You will also want to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of your existing arthritis condition affecting your hands.
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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Who Is At Risk For Arthritis
Some risk factors for arthritis that cant be avoided or changed include:
Age. The older you are, the more likely you are to have arthritis.
Gender. Women are more likely to have arthritis than men.
Heredity. Some types of arthritis are linked to certain genes.
Risk factors that may be avoided or changed include:
Weight. Being overweight or obese can damage your knee joints. This can make them more likely to develop osteoarthritis.
Injury. A joint that has been damaged by an injury is more likely to develop arthritis at some point.
Infection. Reactive arthritis can affect joints after an infection.
Your job. Work that involves repeated bending or squatting can lead to knee arthritis.
All You Need To Know About Arthritis Of The Hands
May 4, 2022
There are many different reasons why your joints in the hands may be painful. If it is a chronic condition, it probably is arthritis of the hands.
Make no mistake, while pain is bad, chronic pain is far worse. It can ruin your mood and attitude, impact your everyday life, and even completely ruin your quality of life. Not to mention that, if things escalate, this issue may result in a loss of function in your hands. This would be a massive problem for your everyday life, even preventing you from working in certain fields .
In order not to allow things to go this far, heres what you need to know about the arthritis of the hands.
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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.
Signs And Symptoms Of Hand Arthritis
The common symptoms associated with arthritis in the hands are:
- Pain: It may range from a dull ache to a sharp, shooting pain, which becomes constant as the problem advances. The pain is more evident in the morning in inflammatory conditions and can worsen with use in osteoarthritis.
- Stiffness: With time, reduction or loss of motion may occur, which may prevent the complete opening or closing of the fingers.
- Swelling: Swelling causes the joints to increase in size and appear oddly shaped and creates difficulty in movement.
- Crepitus: A popping, clicking, or cracking sensation may be felt, signifying the movement of air pockets in the joints.
- Joint deformity: Fingers may appear misshapen due to swelling, loss of cartilage, loose ligaments, and bone changes.
- Weakness: The hand may become weaker and lose the strength required for pinching and gripping, therefore causing problems with daily activities such as turning keys.
Additionally, rheumatoid arthritis may also cause the following signs and symptoms:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- A feeling of poor health
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