Early, Mild Osteoarthritis of the Hands
What to Do if It Affects You!
Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Medical Editor: Catherine B. Driver, MD
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that is caused by breakdown of
cartilage, with eventual loss of the cartilage of the joints. Cartilage is a
protein substance that serves as a "cushion" between the bones of the
joints. When the cartilage deteriorates (degenerates), the bone next to it
becomes inflamed and can be stimulated to produce new bone in the form of a
local bony protrusion, called a "spur."
A very common early sign of osteoarthritis is a knobby bony deformity at the
smallest joint of the end of the fingers. This is referred to as a
node, named after a very famous British doctor. The bony deformity is a result
of the bone spurs from the osteoarthritis in that joint. Another common bony
knob (node) occurs at the middle joint of the fingers in many patients with
osteoarthritis and is called a Bouchard's node. Dr. Bouchard was a famous
French doctor who also studied arthritis patients at the turn of the last
century. The Heberden's and Bouchard's nodes may not be painful, but they are
often associated with limitation of motion of the joint. The characteristic
appearances of these finger nodes can be helpful in diagnosing osteoarthritis.