WHAT PEOPLE WITH HAND ARTHRITIS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ARTHRITIS
The bones of our body, including those of the hands and wrists, receive protection from cartilage. Cartilage are degradable, they wear down over time. When this happens, a person may experience osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is also referred to as “wear & tear” arthritis. It is more prevalent in women than in men. Common causes include repetitive joint movement, trauma, and age. Genetics may also contribute to its development.
Hand arthritis may also be caused by post-traumatic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
WHAT ARE THE COMMON TYPES OF ARTHRITIS THAT AFFECT THE HANDS?
Hand arthritis may result from either rheumatoid or osteoarthritis.
While osteoarthritis may be caused by degeneration of the cartilage, rheumatoid arthritis is more of an autoimmune condition.
A person has rheumatoid arthritis when his or her immune system attacks tissues protecting the joints. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are similar to those of osteoarthritis. They include redness, inflammation, and pain.
Sometimes rheumatoid arthritis may occur without any risk factors. The risk is high in obese people, people with a family history of the condition, and smokers.
While rheumatoid arthritis may occur at any age, the most common age of onset is between 40 and 60.
Post-traumatic arthritis may also be experienced in the hands. This happens in the event of hand damage, such as in an accident or sport-related injury.
Sprained or broken wrists or fingers can cause post-traumatic arthritis. Injuries causes inflammation and also accelerates the degradation of protective cartilage.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF ARTHRITIS
Common symptoms of arthritis include:
- Joint stiffness
- Joint swelling
- Pain when at rest or when moving
- Los of muscle and joint function
- Loss of muscle mass
There are slight differences in the symptoms – this however depends on the type of arthritis. These differences help the doctor to rightly determine the underlying cause of the hand arthritis symptoms.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis
- Difficulty gripping and pinching items
- Stiffness, mostly in the mornings
- Pain occurring beneath the base of the thumb
- Nodes or bony lumps at the joint of the middle finger
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- Body aches
- Extreme fatigue
- Rupturing of the tendons – this makes it difficult to straighten the fingers
- The fingers and wrist get deformed where they fail to straighten
HOW DOES THE DOCTOR DIAGNOSE HAND ARTHRITIS?
When you visit your doctor, he or she will ask you a certain questions to help with the diagnoses. These include:
- When you began experiencing the symptoms
- What aggravates the symptoms
- What improves the symptoms
- Have you had any recent injuries on the hand?
- Are you experiencing any other symptoms (such as rash, weight loss, fever, dry mouth, dry eyes, and extreme fatigue)?
Your doctor will physically examine your hands to identify any abnormalities. They will search for hand deformities such as distinct nodules or fingers that are slightly crooked.
Your doctor may also ask you to do an imaging test, such as an MRI scan or an X-ray.
They will also order a blood test to check for immune markers and markers of inflammation. If you’ve got a swollen joint with fluid in it, it may be aspirated and analyzed.
TREATMENT FOR HAND ARTHRITIS
Medical treatment for hand arthritis or other forms of arthritis include:
- Corticosterone injections
- Steroid shots or oral steroids to reduce inflammation
- Biologics for RA treatment
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen sodium or ibuprofen
Sometimes, a surgery may be recommended to treat hand arthritis. The kind of surgery depends on the severity of the condition and your lifestyle.
For instance, a surgery that causes fusion of two bones is better for people who are naturally more active.
People who do not lead an active lifestyle may opt for a joint replacement. Your doctor will discuss all options with you to be sure that you understand the risks.