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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How Do You Know If You Have Osteoarthritis Of The Wrist
Osteoarthritis is a progressive degenerative condition, often taking many months or even years before becoming symptomatic . Here is a list of the most common symptoms:
Common symptoms of wrist osteoarthritis include:
- Deep dull aching pain located within the wrist joint
- Episodes of increased pain, often this is quite sharp on certain movements and can be associated with synovitis
- Pain with weight bearing activities such as Yoga, press ups or leaning on a table
- Stiffness particularly in the morning or after a period of inactivity the stiffness is often associated with pain and usually dissipates as you start moving
- Change in your joint shape osteoarthritis can result in a thickened and swollen wrist
Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The two classic symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are pain, numbness, and/or tingling that:
- Affects the thumb, index and middle fingers. You may also feel it a bit in your ring finger, but not your pinky finger
- Wakes you up at night or is worse in the morning
Other symptoms of carpal tunnel include pain, numbness, and tingling that:
- Feels better if you change your hands position or shake or wring your hands
- May extend up your forearm
- Develops or gets worse when you flex your wrist 90° for 1 minute or longer
You may also notice that pressing on your wrist causes pain.
Read more about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms on Sports-health.com.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms The pain and other symptoms of carpal tunnel occur when the median nerve is inflamed or irritated. The median nerve controls the sensation in your thumb, index finger, and middle finger. It travels through a narrow space at the center of the wrist called the carpal tunnel. If the tendons that also run through the carpal tunnel become inflamed, carpal tunnel syndrome can develop.
Other less common conditions can cause chronic numbness and tingling in the hands, including but not limited to cervical spine disorders, such as cervical radiculopathy.
Read more about Cervical Radiculopathy on Spine-health.com.
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Causes Of Arthritis In The Wrist
Osteoarthritis in the wrist is caused from everyday wear and tear in the wrist joint. As the cartilage wears down from excessive use, it becomes rough and can lead to bone on bone rubbing.
Kienbocks disease is also a cause of osteoarthritis in the wrist. The blood supply to the lunate bone in the wrist is disrupted, which leads to death in the bone. The death in the bone can lead to arthritis in the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that impacts the smaller joints of the body first. The wrists and hands are typically impacted first. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but there are some researchers who believe there is a genetic connection.
Types Of Finger Arthritis
There are three types of arthritis that commonly affect the fingers:
- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis, also called wear-and-tear arthritis, is the most common type of finger arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes normal cartilage to wear away. This exposes bare bone at the joints. The most frequently affected joints in the hand are the knuckles of the mid-finger and fingertip and the joint at the base of the thumb.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis causes a different type of joint destruction. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that affects the whole body. It causes the immune system to attack the soft tissues surrounding the joints. The most commonly affected joints in the hand are the knuckles at the base of the fingers .
- Gout: Gout is a condition that occurs when crystals develop within the joints. These crystals can form in one or more joints when there is too much of a substance called uric acid in the body. While the big toe is the most commonly affected part of the body, gout can also develop in finger joints.
Rarely, other types of arthritis can also cause problems in the fingers.
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What Osteoarthritis Pain Feels Like
Pain is pain, right? It just plain hurts. But for your doctor to figure out whether your joint pain stems from osteoarthritis, which develops as cartilage wears away, youll need to be specific about when the pain occurs, how bad it is, and the ways its affecting you.
Here are some common signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis that may help you identify and better describe your pain to your doctor:
- Pain that aches deep into the joint
- Pain that feels better with rest
- Pain that isnt noticeable in the morning but gets worse throughout the day
- Pain that radiates into your buttocks, thighs, or groin
- Joint pain that affects your posture and gait and may cause limping
- Pain that occurs after using the joint
- Swelling in the joint
- Not being able to move the joint as much as usual
- Feeling a sensation of bones grating or catching on something when moving the joint
- Pain during certain activities, like standing from a seated position or using stairs
- Pain that interferes with work, daily activities, and exercise
- Joint stiffness first thing in the morning that improves with time
- Stiffness after resting the joint
What Are The Symptoms Of Wrist Arthritis
Symptoms vary depending on the cause. For some people, symptoms are severe and interfere with daily life. For others, symptoms are mild and may come and go.
Wrist pain is one of the first signs of arthritis in the wrist. The pain may worsen when you rotate your palm or try to open jars or turn doorknobs. You may also experience:
- Reduced range of motion.
- Red, warm or swollen joints.
- Stiffness thats worse in the morning and improves throughout the day.
- Wrist and hand weakness.
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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.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/06/2021.
Hand And Wrist Arthritis Treatment
Treatment for hand, wrist, and elbow arthritis usually depends on whether you suffer from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, and how severe your disease is. The experienced team of orthopedists at MedStar Health will examine you carefully and work to develop the most effective treatment plan for you, to ease your pain and improve your ability to use your hands and wrists.
Treatment options aside from surgery may include:
- Prescription and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications
- Injections of steroids or anti-inflammatory medications
- Temporarily restricting hand or wrist movement with a splint to ease pain
- Physical therapy
If non-surgical treatment does not relieve your pain, you may need surgery. The orthopedic surgeons at MedStar Georgetown are experienced in the most advanced and innovative surgical procedures for arthritis treatment.
Surgical procedures we use to treat arthritis include:
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Early Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms
Like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune condition. That means instead of protecting your body from disease, the immune system turns against your body and attacks itself.
In addition to painful, swollen joints, the condition can cause rashes, eye redness and pain, and changes to the nails. Some people can get swelling of the whole finger or toe, which doctors refer to as sausage-like. This may help distinguish this condition from other types of arthritis.
Diagnosis Of Arthritis In The Wrist
Arthritis in the wrist is diagnosed in a physical exam by your orthopedic physician. The physician will test your joint strength, range of motion and evaluate your pain level.
The physician will also order an x-ray or blood test. The x-ray will show exactly where the arthritis is located and how severe it is.
In addition, the physician will be able to distinguish which type of arthritis the patient has. The blood tests will be able to help determine which type of arthritis the patient has as well. Rheumatoid arthritis can be confirmed through a blood test, while osteoarthritis cant.
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How Can I Protect My Sore Hands
Here are some ways to protect the joints in your hands:
- Take notice of pain it can serve as a warning that your joints are being overworked. Rather than giving up an activity altogether, try taking regular rests during the activity and learning ways to manage pain. You will usually find you can still do the things you enjoy without discomfort.
- Use larger, stronger joints for example, carry your shopping bags over your shoulder rather than in your hands.
- Spread the load over several joints try carrying things with two hands.
- Reduce the effort you have to put in there is a wide range of labour-saving tools and equipment available. Buy pre-cut vegetables and meat to make cooking easier.
- Avoid gripping things tightly find out about gadgets that can make gripping and holding objects easier.
- See an occupational therapist to learn more ways to make daily tasks easier and take pressure off your joints.
- Visit an Independent Living Centre. These centres have a wide range of tools and equipment on display. You can get advice, including where to purchase equipment, in person or over the phone. Occupational therapists are also available at the centres to provide advice about equipment. Although you can drop in at anytime, it is preferred that you call the telephone enquiry service beforehand.
Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes
Wrist arthritis can be challenging in terms of both diagnosis and management. Since hand motions are essential for many higher functions, providers must pay close attention to details while addressing wrist arthritis in a time-sensitive manner to prevent disability. One should consider an interprofessional approach involving rheumatologists, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, and occupational therapists whenever appropriate.
While the patient may initially be seen by the primary care provider or the nurse, it is important to refer the patient to the rheumatologist or orthopedic surgeon to confirm the diagnosis the earlier the treatment, the better the outcomes. The pharmacist should educate the patient on drug compliance and check for drug-drug interactions. The team should communicate with each other regarding the treatment steps.
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Stiffness In The Joints
In addition to pain, this disease causes stiffness in the affected joints. You may have difficulty getting out of bed or walking in the morning because of stiff and painful ankles, knees, or feet. This stiffness is usually worse in the mornings and can last for 45 minutes or more.
RA can also trigger swelling in the affected joints. Long-term inflammation can cause you to feel physically exhausted.
How Is Arthritis In The Hand Treated
Treatment options depend on the type of arthritis, stage of arthritis, how many joints are affected, your age, activity level, the hand affected and other existing medical conditions.
Goals of treatment are to:
- Improve mobility and function.
- Increase your quality of life.
- In the case of rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, to slow the progression of the disease.
Treatment options include splinting/bracing, medications, injections, non-drug approaches and surgery.
Splits or braces support and protect the affected joint, reduce deformity, provide joint stability, lessen strain, and promote proper joint alignment. Your healthcare provider, occupational therapist or hand therapist will discuss splinting/bracing options, how and when to wear them and how long to wear them .
Steroids reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Steroids are usually used if medications dont control inflammation or if the inflammation is limited to a few joints. Injections are administered directly into the affected joint. Because steroids can weaken tendons and ligaments, injections are repeated only a few times.
Other management strategies
A complete treatment plan for arthritis of the hand includes these additional approaches:
If nonsurgical treatments no longer provide relief and the cartilage at the ends of your bones has worn away, surgery may be an option. There are several approaches:
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What To Expect From Your Doctor
First, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. During your physical exam, your doctor will examine your wrist for swelling, pain, and tenderness. The location of the swelling can tell your doctor which wrist joints are most affected. Problems in the wrist can affect peripheral tendons, causing tendonitis.
Next, your doctor will examine the range of motion of the wrist itself. This can show how mild or severe the arthritis is, or if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Your doctor will ask you to twist and flex both wrists in every direction. Finally, theyll manipulate your wrist and thumb joints and ask if you feel pain.
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Carpal Tunnel Versus Arthritis
If you have ever had a hand or leg go to sleep because of pressure that temporarily cuts off the blood supply, you can get an idea of what carpal tunnel can feel like. The prickling, burning sensation can be similar to the numbness caused by compressing the median nerve, which runs in a narrow tunnel like structure formed by the bones and connective tissues from the elbow to the hand. The tendons and median nerve allow the fingers of your hand to flex and extend.
The median nerve carries impulses to and from the palm side of your hand to the index, middle, and ring fingers, as well as your thumb. If the tissues of the tunnel are irritated , they can swell and place pressure on the nerve.
Arthritis of the hand, however, is caused by a different mechanism, often showing up with a specific pattern in the way it attacks the joints. In the case of arthritis, the lining of the joint itself becomes inflamed. This can occur because of osteoarthritis , or other inflammatory processes caused by a defect in the immune response, in which the body attacks otherwise healthy tissue. The symptoms of arthritis include stiffness and soreness of the joint, and frequently starts with the smaller joints of the hands.
If you, or a loved one has carpal tunnel syndrome or any form of arthritis, or you would like more information about treatments for carpal tunnel or arthritis, or to schedule an appointment, please contact Orthopaedic Associates at 892-1440 today.
How Does Joint Pain In Hands And Fingers Affect Members
The symptoms of RA in hands and fingers significantly disrupt myRAteam members daily lives in many ways. Many members report that this type of arthritis makes it hard to grip, pinch, or squeeze things with their hands. Its frustrating to not be able to turn a doorknob, open jars, or lift heavy cookware, said one member. I need both hands to balance a coffee mug, explained another. I cant hold onto my pills without dropping them, said another.
Loss of hand function can also be dangerous. Members say theyve dropped a cup of coffee or lost control of a pot of hot water. One member said, I was changing the toilet paper roll and, because my hands dont work, the holder shot out of my hand and popped me in the eye!
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