What Are The Signs Of Arthritis In The Hands
May 19, 2021
Achy, swollen hands? Stiffness in your wrists? Its common to assume these are symptoms of arthritis. While 40 million Americans suffer from arthritis, its far less frequent in the hands than people expect. Instead, what many mistake for arthritis is actually tendonitis. Lets look at the difference between arthritis and other conditions, risk factors and treatments.
Role Of The Rheumatologist
After consulting with your primary care doctor, it may be that your diagnosis is not clear-cut. Or you may seem to have a complicated case. At that point, it may be wise to see a rheumatologist.
A rheumatologist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases, a group of disorders characterized by chronic, often intermittent pain affecting the joints or connective tissues.
Rheumatologists have additional education and training, making them a better choice for complicated cases. As the patient, you may want to a rheumatologist if:
- Your pain is unrelenting.
- Your symptoms are persistent or worsening despite treatment.
- Your doctor is unable to diagnose the underlying cause.
- Your symptoms are flaring more frequently or more severely.
- You are less able to handle tasks you use to be able to manage.
- You are becoming increasingly homebound.
- Your condition is lowering your quality of life.
A rheumatologist can also consult on a limited basis to offer a second opinion about whether your treatment plan is appropriate and optimal for your condition. Your primary care doctor wont resent that you want a second opinion they will more than likely encourage it.
Once you have your second opinion, you can return to your primary doctor for regular follow-up appointments.
A rheumatologist does not perform surgery. If surgery is indicated, an orthopedic surgeon would be your best option.
Rheumatologists Wont Be In The Operating Room
They arent surgeons, but if you need joint replacement theyll be involved both before and after your operation.
You will often need a rheumatology evaluation before surgery to manage your drugs and to decide if any precautions must be taken for surgery because of your disease. Afterward, we want to control your disease well and avoid flaring so that you can do well in rehab and maximize the success of the joint replacement, Dr. Marchetta says.
You May Like: Is Tylenol Arthritis The Same As Regular Tylenol
What To Expect At The Rheumatologist
Rheumatic diseases change over time. A rheumatologist can set up a personalized treatment plan to manage your symptoms.
Rheumatologists start with a physical exam and may ask about your personal and family health history. They use this information to narrow down what may be causing your symptoms.
If youâve had testing or imaging for your symptoms, bring copies of any documents or scans to your rheumatologist.
Some treatments that a rheumatologist might recommend include:
Risk Factors & Prevention
Risk factors for arthritis include:
- Family history. Some types of arthritis run in families, so you may be more likely to develop arthritis if your parents or siblings have the disorder. Your genes can make you more susceptible to environmental factors that may trigger arthritis.
- Age. The risk of many types of arthritis including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout increases with age.
- Gender. Women are more likely than are men to develop rheumatoid arthritis, while most of the people who have gout are men.
- Previous joint injury. People who have injured a joint, perhaps while playing a sport, are more likely to eventually develop arthritis in that joint.
- Obesity. Carrying excess pounds puts stress on joints, particularly your knees, hips and spine. Obese people have a higher risk of developing arthritis.
- Genetics. Specific genes are associated with a higher risk of certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus , and ankylosing spondylitis.
Reduce the onset of arthritis by:
Also Check: What Is Best For Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain
Whats The Difference Between A Rheumatologist And An Orthopedist
Rheumatologists and orthopedists both treat rheumatic diseases, but in different ways.
Generally, rheumatologists treat rheumatic diseases with nonsurgical interventions, whereas orthopedists perform surgeries to improve function and quality of life.
You may want to see an orthopedist if you need a joint replacement or have:
- joint or musculoskeletal pain related to an injury
- hip or knee pain that gets worse when you put weight on these joints
- severe joint pain that interferes with your daily life
- moderate or advanced arthritis in your hips or knees
- joint pain that hasnt responded to previous treatment
A good rule of thumb: Unless youve experienced a traumatic injury that requires surgery, see a rheumatologist before you consult an orthopedist.
What Are The Symptoms Of Spinal Arthritis
Symptoms of spinal arthritis may differ from person to person. In general, they may include:
Back and neck pain, especially in the lower back
Stiffness and loss of flexibility in the spine, such as being unable to straighten your back or turn your neck
Swelling and tenderness over the affected vertebrae
Feeling of grinding when moving the spine
Pain, swelling and stiffness in other areas of the body
Whole-body weakness and fatigue
Pain and numbness in your arms or legs if the nerves are affected
Although back pain is a common symptom, not all people have it, even those with advanced spinal arthritis. On the other hand, some may experience pain even before arthritis can be seen on an X-ray.
In certain types of spondyloarthritis, eye inflammation may occur, causing pain, watery eyes and blurred vision.
Read Also: Is Coconut Water Good For Arthritis
Do You Need To See An Orthopedic Physician Or A Rheumatologist
Patients should use the guidelines below to help determine if they should choose an orthopedic physician or rheumatologist for their arthritis and joint pain.
Patients might need an orthopedic physician if they have:
- Joint or musculoskeletal pain that began after an injury
- Gradually progressive hip or knee pain that is worse with weight bearing
- Joint pain that is severe and interfering with function
- Moderate or advanced arthritis of the knee or hip
- Previous unsuccessful treatment for joint pain
- Been told by their doctor they might need a joint replacement
Patients might need a rheumatologist if they have:
- Pain involving many joints
- Muscular pain with or without any other symptoms
- New headaches or muscle aches and are over the age of 50
- Back pain with or without pain in the legs
- Unexplained, ongoing symptoms such as fever, sweats or weight loss
A patients medical needs are important and unique, that is why UMass Memorial Medical Center offers specialty trained physicians that have devoted their education and career to treating specific medical conditions to serve you.
Best Pain Medication For Severe Arthritis
Arthritis can cause permanent changes to the joint. Although it can affect all people, it occurs most commonly in older people and both men and women in the United States.
This article explores the symptoms of osteoarthritis, treatments, and alternative and home remedies for severe pain.
type of arthritis and causes the most severe pain.
You May Like: How Can You Reverse Arthritis
Spinal Arthritis: What You Need To Know
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis to affect the spine.
Arthritis can occur anywhere along the spine, but is more frequent in the lower back and neck.
Pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms of spinal arthritis.
Causes of spinal arthritis are still largely unknown except for osteoarthritis, which is typically a result of wear and tear.
Spinal arthritis treatment may include pain medications, steroid injections, physical therapy and surgery in severe cases.
Other Tips For Picking The Right Rheumatologist
What I would suggest for anyone who is getting ready to see a new doctor is to sit down before you go and write down on a piece of paper why you are going and what you are hoping to accomplish with your visit, says Martin. And write down a list of everything thats going on with you. If you have everything written down when they come into the room, I think the doctors themselves will sit down and be a little bit more patient. It pays to be organized and know what it is you want to talk to your doctor about.
Recommended Reading: Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Your White Blood Cell Count
When It’s Time To See A Doctor For Joint Pain
If you are having joint symptoms that cause concern, you may have arthritis. Learn when you need to see a doctor.
People are often surprised to learn that arthritis isnt a diagnosis. Its a general term that covers more than 100 diseases and related conditions. Knowing which type of arthritis, you have is the first step in getting the right treatment and management plan for your situation.
Some types of arthritis require prompt action. If you have a type of arthritis that can cause permanent joint damage, getting treatment quickly can help preserve joint function and prevent other serious health problems.
On the other hand, infrequent or mild joint pains may not require a special or urgent doctor visit. While its good idea to talk with your doctor about your joint health and risks for arthritis, in general, you might be able to save the conversation for your next check-up.
When to See a Doctor
Watch for these potential signs and symptoms of arthritis:
- Pain, swelling, or stiffness in one or more joints.
- Joints that are red or warm to the touch.
- Joint tenderness or stiffness.
- Difficulty moving a joint or doing daily activities.
- Joint symptoms that cause you concern.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Joint symptoms that last three days or more.
- Several episodes of joint symptoms within a month.
Which Type of Health Care Provider to See
After an Arthritis Diagnosis
Spinal Arthritis Causes And Risk Factors
The causes of arthritis in the back or neck vary depending on the type of arthritis you have. Besides normal wear and tear and autoimmune triggers, in many cases the exact cause remains unknown. Genetic components have been identified in connection with some forms of spinal arthritis, meaning that it may be hereditary.
Other spinal arthritis risk factors include:
Dont Miss: Does Cold Weather Affect Psoriatic Arthritis
Don’t Miss: What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Factor
Why Do People With Arthritis Have Joint Surgery
Most types of surgery for arthritis are performed to:
- relieve severe pain that has not responded to other treatments
- improve movement and use of a joint, for example improve flexibility of your hip to allow you to walk and sit more comfortably
- improve alignment of joints, for example straighten finger joints to allow you to grip and hold objects.
This can help make daily activities easier and improve your quality of life.
All surgery has risks. Make sure you understand the possible risks, their likelihood and their consequences before you decide to have surgery.
Education And Training Requirements
According to the American College of Rheumatology , before a rheumatologist can start treating patients, they must fulfill the following education and training requirements:
- graduate from a medical school
- complete a residency program
- participate in a rheumatology fellowship
After completing a rheumatology fellowship program, they must pass a board examination and receive a certificate to practice rheumatology. They will need to retake this exam every 10 years to maintain their certification.
Rheumatologists must also participate in continuing education courses throughout their career.
A rheumatologist can choose to treat specific rheumatic conditions or narrow their focus to a particular area, or subspecialty, within rheumatology.
Subspecialties in the field of rheumatology
Rheumatologists perform examinations and procedures that help them diagnose and treat rheumatic conditions.
These procedures include:
Read Also: What Can You Take To Relieve Arthritis Pain
What Is A Dermatologist
A dermatologist is a doctor who primarily treats conditions related to the skin. This also includes conditions that affect the nails and hair. According to the American Academy of Dermatology , dermatologists work with more than 3,000 related diseases, including psoriasis.
Dermatologists are often the first points of contact for those with PsA. This is especially the case for those who have psoriasis, but havent yet received a diagnosis for the arthritis component. A dermatologist treating a someone with psoriasis might ask about joint pain or stiffness, as these are common indicators of possible PsA.
In treating PsA, a dermatologist may prescribe topical ointments to minimize itchiness and pain as well as prescription medication. Light therapy might also be used in the dermatologists office.
Getting Ready For Surgery
Here are some tips to help you prepare for surgery:
- Plan for recovery and returning home. During your recovery, which may take days, weeks or even months, you may need help with daily tasks such as cooking and showering. Make sure you have family and/or friends available to help you during this time. If you do not have help available, talk to your doctor about local support services or staying at a rehabilitation centre after surgery.
- You may be required to attend an assessment at the hospital before your surgery. This is a good chance for you to ask questions about your surgery and recovery. Also you may be able to talk to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist about any equipment you may need, such as crutches and handrails in the shower.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Stop smoking.
- Start an exercise program. People with greater fitness and muscle strength usually recover more quickly from surgery. If you have severe pain, you may find water exercise more comfortable. See a physiotherapist for hydrotherapy or contact us to find out more about our warm water exercise classes.
- You will probably need to follow a physiotherapy or exercise program after surgery. Be ready for several weeks or even months of exercise. Remember, the amount of effort you put into your program can make a big difference in how well you recover.
Don’t Miss: What Is Aggressive Rheumatoid Arthritis
Other Possible Causes Of Hand Pain
Hand pain is also a sign of Dupuytrens contracture, a condition in which the tissue of the palm and fingers becomes thickened and tight, causing the fingers to curl inward. Its not clear why Dupuytrens contracture develops, though those who smoke, drink a lot of alcohol, and have seizures or diabetes are more vulnerable to developing it.
Your doctor will also consider whether your hand pain could be due to carpal tunnel syndrome, says Dr. Byram. RA can be a cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, so if we see someone who has carpal tunnel, well want to make sure they dont have RA. Carpal tunnel is a condition that occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand the median nerve is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
When You Need To Lose Weight
Because osteoarthritis can make it hard for you to stay active, itâs easy to gain weight. Shedding even a few pounds can ease the strain on your joints.
If you need help to lose weight, talk to your doctor or nurse. They can suggest a diet plan and weight loss goal thatâs right for you. They can also refer you to a dietitian or nutritionist to create an eating plan for you, or a weight loss doctor if you need one. It takes time, but donât give up. Weight loss can do a lot to ease your OA symptoms.
Also Check: What’s Best For Arthritis Pain
Orthotic Inserts And Braces
Some people find that wearing an orthotic insert, which fits into the shoe, or a foot or ankle brace helps to ease arthritis symptoms. By limiting the movement of the foot or ankle joint, an insert or brace may relieve pain and stiffness, making it more comfortable to walk.
Orthotic inserts are available in different sizes and levels of stiffness. They can be placed in the shoe to support different parts of the feet, depending on the location of your arthritis pain. Orthotic inserts help reduce the amount of stress put on arthritic areas of the foot by redistributing the weight of the body to other parts of the foot, providing pain relief.
Braces also come in different sizes and levels of support. Some are flexible and worn in addition to regular shoes, and others resemble a cast that covers part of the foot and ankle. NYU Langone doctors can advise you on the type of brace that best suits your lifestyle and the severity of your symptoms. If youre planning to spend the day in an environment that requires very little walking, for instance, a light brace may be all you need. If your job requires you to be on your feet all day, a brace with more support might be a better choice.
Some of the time, inserts and braces available at drugstores work well. If your doctor suggests that a brace or orthotic insert designed to fit the shape of your foot may be more effective, NYU Langone specialists can customize a brace or orthotic insert to ensure it provides the support you need.
Choosing The Right Doctors
PsA treatment often requires regular care by both a dermatologist and a rheumatologist. Still, finding the right doctors can be overwhelming to start. Aside from seeing which providers are in-network with your insurance carrier, you can also ask your primary doctor for some recommendations.
As a rule of thumb, you should also select doctors that are board-certified. You can also check out the AAD website for certified dermatologists, as well as the American College of Rheumatologists website for a rheumatologist.
In addition to undergraduate school and medical school education, dermatologists must undergo extensive internships and at least three years worth of residency training. To become board certified, a dermatologist must pass an exam for proper certification. A certified dermatologist usually displays their credentials somewhere in their office.
Like dermatologists, rheumatologists undergo significant schooling and training. The estimated timeline for education and training is the same, and they must also complete certification exams before practicing rheumatology. You may need a referral from your primary doctor to make an appointment.
Once youve found a dermatologist and rheumatologist, ask about their experiences in treating PsA. Because both types of doctors treat a variety of conditions, some might be more experienced in PsA than others.
Also Check: Is There Surgery For Arthritis In Fingers