- Causes and Risk Factors
- 5 Types of Hand Arthritis
- Signs and Symptoms
The hand is made up of multiple small joints that are responsible for various types of motions required to perform daily activities. If arthritis is left untreated, the bones can undergo irreversible damage, leading to restricted motions and deformities that will make routine activities extremely difficult.
Following simple tips and tricks can help you stop the progress of arthritis in the hands, ease pain and stiffness, improve mobility, and prevent further damage:
- Perform hand and finger exercises (a hand therapist may recommend at-home exercises to improve mobility and enhance the quality of life)
- Avoid strain on the joints
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid or quit smoking
- Receive heat and ice therapy (heat therapy may be useful in mornings to loosen stiffness, whereas ice can be beneficial after daily activities)
- Maintain blood sugar and cholesterol levels
What are the causes of and risk factors for arthritis?
Some of the known and common causes of and risk factors for arthritis include:
- Age: Older people are more likely to develop the disease.
- Gender: Women are more likely to get arthritis than men.
- Injury: Acute injuries, trauma, fractures, dislocations, and accidents cause joint damage and can lead to arthritis.
- Smoking: Smokers are more prone to arthritis than nonsmokers.
- Obesity or being overweight: Higher body mass index makes you more vulnerable to arthritis.
- Infections: Psoriasis can result in arthritis.
5 types of arthritis in hands
The 5 types of arthritis in the hands include:
- Osteoarthritis: Caused by degenerative changes in the joints due to age-related wear and tear
- Characterized by pain and stiffness in the hands
- Symptoms are worse in the dominant hand
- Absence of warmth and redness of the affected joint
- Morning stiffness for a short period, often eases in just 5 to 15 minutes
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Autoimmune inflammation of the small joints
- Characterized by pain and stiffness in the hands, especially in the morning
- Symptoms are present in both the hands
- Presence of warmth and redness in the affected joint
- Prolonged morning stiffness of the hands that usually lasts for an hour or more
- Psoriatic arthritis: Affects some people with psoriasis
- Pain and stiffness of the hands
- Puffy fingers and toes
- Skin plaques and pitted nails
- Palindromic rheumatism: A rare autoimmune form of arthritis
- Characterized by sudden and recurrent attacks of painful swelling of the joints
- Mostly affects the hands but can affect other joints
- Gout: A painful form of arthritis
- Caused by high uric acid levels in the blood
- Can affect the wrist and fingers but mostly affects the big toe
What are the signs and symptoms of arthritis in the hands?
The onset of symptoms is gradual but, over time, may become constant and sharp including:
- Pain, especially in the morning hours
- Stiffness, restricting day-to-day activities
- Swelling, warmth, and redness of the joints
- Restricted motion
- Tingling and numbness in the fingers
- Crepitation (grinding, creaking, grating, crunching, or popping sound in the affected joint)
- Deformities such as Bouchard’s nodes (small bony nodules on the middle joint of fingers) and Heberden’s nodes (nodules on top joints of fingers)
How to diagnose arthritis in the hands
Your doctor may rely on medical history, physical examination, and blood and imaging tests to determine the diagnosis.
- Physical examination: Swelling of the hands feels harder in osteoarthritis (OA), whereas it is softer in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
- Blood test: It is performed to detect the presence of antibodies such as rheumatoid factor or anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide that help identify RA and other types of inflammatory arthritis.
- Imaging test: X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging scans may reveal joint erosion in RA and the presence of osteophytes (bone spurs) and loss of cartilage in OA.
Can anything be done for arthritis in the hands?
Treating rheumatoid arthritis is easier than treating osteoarthritis (OA).
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Help manage pain and reduce inflammation
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs: Reduce inflammation and prevent further damage
- Cortisone injections: Hyaluronic acid helps lubricate the joints; useful in OA
- Splints: Help support the joint
- Surgery: Joint replacement in case of severe damage to the joint
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Arthritis of the hand. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/arthritis-of-the-hand/
Arthritis of the hand. Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/7082-arthritis-of-the-wrist-and-hand
Melinda Ratini. Hand Osteoarthritis. WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/hand-osteoarthritis-degenerative-arthritis-of-the-hand