What Does Arthritis Feel Like
Arthritis feels like pain in the joints, but theres a lot more to it than just that. In addition to the early signs of arthritis described above, individuals who are in the early stages of developing arthritis may experience general weakness,7 difficulty sleeping,10 loss of appetite,6 and weight loss. It is also common to have dry mouth, dry eyes, eye discharge, or chest pain early-on.
Do I Need To Go To A Rheumatologist Or An Orthopedist
With so much overlap between medical disciplines and specializations, it is often difficult for an individual to discern which type of doctor to see for their problem.
This is especially true for orthopedics and rheumatology, as both of these types of physicians treat joint pain.
Orthopedists are surgeons who address bone and joint diseases and injuries, such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, and body trauma. Rheumatologists are internal medicine physicians who focus on autoimmune conditions and the non-surgical treatment of such diseases, such as arthritis, where medications and/or physical therapy can provide the proper treatment.
It is important to understand the areas these two specialties cover in order to make an informed decision.
Common Causes Of Finger Pain
Finger pain is commonly caused by injurieseither simple ones like banging your finger against the side of a table, or more serious ones like falling on your hand. Repetitive movements and chronic or long-term conditions also can injure or damage any of the structures in your fingersnerves, joints, bones, ligaments and tendons .
Aside from accidental injuries to the fingersresulting in painful cuts, sprains, dislocations, or broken boneshere are some common reasons for finger pain:
Repetitive usethis most often affects the thumb, usually from using a computer mouse or trackball, but there are many other possible repeated motions and activities that can cause a finger .
Trigger fingeralso known as stenosing , is when the tendon at the base of your finger becomes inflamed and forces your finger into a constricted, or trigger position.
Compartment syndromea crushing injury, such as from something heavy falling on your finger, can cause severe swelling and pressure on a nerve.
- Arthritisthe most common type of finger arthritis is .
Infectionnail biters and people who chew or pull on their cuticles can get painful infections along the nail if the skin is broken.
Peripheral neuropathyfingertip pain, a painful burning or in the fingertips, can be caused by damage to the small, peripheral blood vessels in your hands and fingers.
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When A Hand Surgeon Treats The Elbow
Patients with Elbow injuries are often left wondering who will best treat their condition. Many elbow injuries are treated by sports medicine doctors, but there are times where you may see a hand surgeon for the treatment of an elbow conditions as well.
Dr Sameer Lodha is one of Panoramas expert hand surgeons, but he also routinely performs complicated elbow surgeries.
His expertise as a hand surgeon, as well as his specialized training in the wrist and elbow, helps enable him to deliver successful outcomes to patients suffering from elbow pain.
Hand surgeons have experience with nerve anatomy and are comfortable operating around the complicated neurovascular structure of the elbow, Dr. Lodha said. More and more, the elbow is coming into the hand surgeons sphere of treatment.
Dr. Lodha commonly treats elbow patients for cubital tunnel syndrome, which occurs when one of the main nerves in the arm, the ulnar nerve, becomes compressed and impairs hand function.
Elbow pathology is extremely complicated, and the main concern is always the risk of injury to nerves and arteries that cross the elbow, Dr. Lodha said. We see a tremendous volume of elbow surgeries because people recognize the level of experience we have treating this very difficult joint.
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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Ask A Doctor: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Hand surgeon Mark Joseph Yuhas, MD answers your questions about rheumatoid arthritis.
What is arthritis? Can it affect the hand and wrist just the same as other joints such as the hip and knee?
Arthritis is a term that is used to describe pain and stiffness in a joint. A joint is a location in the body where two bones articulate, or move. Typically these joints have cartilage, a type of material in the body that is smooth and helps the joint to move without pain or restriction.
Arthritis involves a process where the cartilage is no longer smooth and begins to break down. This can result in pain, swelling, and loss of motion in many joints in the body including the fingers, hand, and wrist.
Are there different types of arthritis?
Yes, there are multiple forms of arthritis that can affect the joints. Generally, we describe arthritis as degenerative or inflammatory. There are other forms or causes of arthritis, such as gout, infection, or post-traumatic.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis. Other types of inflammatory arthritis include psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis.
How is rheumatoid arthritis different than other types of arthritis such as osteoarthritis? Do they have similarities?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of autoimmune arthritis. It causes protective mechanisms in our body to instead attack certain structures, including the joints.
What is the cause of rheumatoid arthritis?
When To See Your Doctor About Arthritis Pain
Home treatment hasnât helped. Minor aches and pains usually get better with ice or heat therapy or over-the-counter pain relievers. But if your symptoms donât improve after about a week, it may be something more serious.
You have pain multiple joints.Rheumatoid arthritis, for example, can make several joints hurt. Quick treatment is important to prevent long-term damage.
Your joints hurt a lot. Your doctor should check out any severe pain so they can diagnose and treat it.
Pain doesnât go away after rest. This can be a sign that your condition may be serious. You may need therapy, such as medications or even surgery.
Your joints turn red or hot. It may be normal for you to feel a bit stiff first thing in the morning. But if your symptoms appear suddenly or are unusual, have them checked out.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis
Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling are the most common symptoms of arthritis. Your range of motion may also decrease, and you may experience redness of the skin around the joint. Many people with arthritis notice their symptoms are worse in the morning.
In the case of RA, you may feel tired or experience a loss of appetite due to the inflammation the immune systems activity causes. You may also become anemic meaning your red blood cell count decreases or have a slight fever. Severe RA can cause joint deformity if left untreated.
What Can A Hand Specialist Do For My Carpal Tunnel
An orthopedic hand specialist will examine your hand and wrist to diagnose the cause of the unwanted symptoms you have been experiencing. The hand specialist will not only do a physical examination, but they will also review your medical history and ask for details on your daily activities involving your hands.
For example, the specialist may ask for details about your office job, any hobbies you participate in, and your lifestyle. The hand physician will also examine the severity of the condition in order to determine what kind of treatment is necessary. This will give the physician an understanding of what could be causing the carpal tunnel syndrome.
Depending on the cause of your carpal tunnel syndrome, the hand specialist may make different recommendations for treatment. For example, if the cause is overuse or improper positioning of your hands and wrists while you work at your desk job, the physician may recommend that you start using ergonomic office equipment. The doctor may also suggest using splints to help prevent pressure on the median nerve.
For serious cases, more invasive treatments may be recommended for adequate improvements to your symptoms. This may include surgery.
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Treatment For Hand Arthritis
Treating hand arthritis usually starts with conservative methods of taking anti-inflammatory medications, ice and heat therapy, splinting, and manipulation therapies. If pain persists, doctors may recommend steroid injections for immediate pain relief. However, this treatment method only offers temporary relief. When arthritis pain in the hand progresses and conservative treatments fail to bring relief, there may be damage to the hands joints, in which case, surgery may be necessary.
What Is Hand And Wrist Arthritis
Hand and wrist arthritis is characterized by inflammation and swelling in the hand and wrist joints, which can cause severe pain and joint damage without proper treatment and care. The types of arthritis that commonly affect hands and wrists include:
- Osteoarthritis of the hands and wrists The natural aging process can wear away at the protective cartilage that allows the many bones in your hand and wrist to move smoothly, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain.
- Rheumatoid arthritis of the hands and wrists This immune system condition attacks and wears away the cartilage lining between the small, delicate bones in your hand and wrist. Rheumatoid arthritis generally affects the joints on both hands or both wrists.
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Alternative Therapies For Arthritis
As a complement to more traditional therapies, an integrative approach can be an additional solution for unresolved pain complaints and to improve strength and functional mobility. The Jefferson Health team offers many unique therapies, such as homeopathic bee venom injections, as well as a variety of manual medicine modalities.
Hand And Wrist Arthritis Care
At MedStar Orthopaedic Institute, you will find the most experienced team of orthopedic hand and wrist arthritis specialists, as well as the most comprehensive care available in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding region.
Many of our facilities are equipped to perform wide awake hand surgery, arthritis surgery, and arthroscopy of the hand and wrist, making it easier to undergo these advanced surgeries in the D.C. area. Our team provides the most advanced treatments for the full range of hand and wrist arthritis issues, including joint-preserving arthroscopy of the hand and wrist. Our team approach makes it easy for our hand and wrist specialists to work together with any other MedStar specialists you need for your arthritis management.
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Role Of The Primary Care Doctor
Your primary care doctor will able to make an initial assessment following a physical examination. They can order X-rays, blood tests, or any other diagnostic tests needed to support his initial assessment. Your primary care doctor can also prescribe medications to relieve pain and other arthritis symptoms.
After test results come back and enough time has passed to evaluate how you are doing on the prescribed medications, your doctor may decide that they can handle your case. If not, they may decide to refer you to a specialist in arthritis diseases known as a rheumatologist.
Expect Ups And Downs With Arthritis
Pain is an unwelcome intruder on normal daily activities. Every person diagnosed with arthritis hopes that treatment will quickly gain control over the disease. And not only do people with arthritis hope to gain control of their condition but they hope to maintain that control. The truth is that the usual course of arthritis is fraught with ups and downs. Like many chronic health conditions, it can feel like a roller coaster.
Even with treatment, you should expect both good days and bad days with arthritis. Some people find that the ups and downs, a major part of dealing with arthritis, are the most difficult aspect. If possible, prepare for those ups and downs by building flexibility into your life.
Some people find it helpful to list out ways to adapt to unforeseen circumstances ahead of time, and there are even retreats focused on “resilience training” to help those coping with chronic medical conditions.
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What Does An Orthopedist Do
Orthopedists handle the disorders, injuries, prevention, treatment, and repair of the skeletal system and its related joints, ligaments, and muscles.
Orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons are specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of bone and joint disease. They use an array of testing modalities to aid in diagnosis and treatment.
Early Signs Of Arthritis
While some signs of arthritis develop and worsen with time, other symptoms are often present at the onset of the disease. Common early signs of arthritis are morning stiffness,4 fatigue,5tingling,6 and numbness of the joints.
Individuals with early onsite arthritis may feel unusually fatigued doing normal daily activities, and this fatigue may come or go on certain days. Tingling and numbness may be mild sensations in the beginning. Stiffness in the morning that only lasts a few minutes is often an early warning sign of a degenerative form of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis. Meanwhile, individuals who experience morning stiffness that lasts a few hours may be feeling an early warning sign of rheumatoid arthritis or another form of inflammatory arthritis.6
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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.
Dupuytrens Disease And Contracture
Dupuytrens contracture is a thickening of the fibrous tissue layer underneath the skin of the palm and fingers. Although painless, the thickening and tightening of this fibrous tissue can cause the fingers to curl .
Dupuytrens contracture is more common in men than in women.
Dupuytrens contracture symptoms usually occur very gradually and starts with nodules and pitting of the palmar skin.
Nodules. One or more small, tender lumps form in the palm. Over time, the tenderness usually goes away without treatment.
Bands of tissue/Cords: Tough bands of scar tissue can form a linear looking and feeling tissue along each finger.
Contracture: One or more fingers bend toward the palm as the cords contract. The ring and little fingers are most commonly affected, but any or all fingers can be involved. Grasping large objects and putting your hand in a pocket becomes difficult.
The cause of Dupuytrens contracture is not known. It is not caused by an injury or heavy hand use.
There are factors that put people at greater risk for developing Dupuytrens contracture.
- It is most common in people of Northern European or Scandinavian ancestry.
- It often runs in families .
- It may be associated with drinking alcohol.
- It is associated with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and seizure disorders.
- It increases in frequency with age.
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Why See A Hand Specialist
The reason you should see a hand specialist if you are experiencing arthritis pain in the hands is simple: hand specialists are experts in treating conditions like arthritis pain in the hands. No other physician can give you the expert care that this type of physician offers.
Would you see a heart specialist for your diabetes condition or an endocrinologist if you broke a bone? Of course not! There are a variety of medical doctors specializing in every subfield of medicine possible. Because no single doctor can specialize in every subfield of medicine, patients see specialized doctors for specific needs. Arthritis is an orthopedic condition that affects the musculoskeletal system. Orthopedic physicians are experts in treating all types of musculoskeletal issues. Therefore, you should see an orthopedic physician if you have arthritis.
Further, arthritis can affect any joint in the body. Orthopedic physicians often have specializations in different parts of the body. Hand specialists are orthopedic physicians who have specialized education and experience treating orthopedic issues in the hands and wrists. This makes them experts in this particular subfield of orthopedic care.
Finger Pain Treatment At Home
You can treat finger pain from most causes at home. Repetitive use finger pain will often ease if you stop the activity or change the way you use your hand. If using a mouse hurts your thumb, you may want to switch to a differently shaped mouse or a trackpad, or switch hands. The longer you continue the activity unchecked, the worse the can be and the worse the potential for damage.
Common home care recommendations for finger or injuries are:
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