Arthritis [Hand]


What is arthritis?

Arthritis causes your joint’s healthy cushioning tissue or cartilage to wear away, and causes the joint surface to be rough. A rough joint surface causes bone-on-bone rubbing to occur. Rubbing leads to wearing of the joint surface which results in increased pain and bone spurs.

Why does arthritis develop?

Many factors contribute to arthritis including prior traumatic injury, genetics, age, and some inflammatory diseases.

Osteoarthritis (degenerative) is the most common arthritis and may affect one or more of your joints anywhere in the body. Osteoarthritis impacts practically everyone as they age and is more common in women than men. It affects 60 percent of adults over age 60 and 80-90 percent of patients over age 75.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects your entire body, particularly your joints. Rheumatoid arthritis begins in your hands and wrists as well as your ankles and feet. It often affects the same joints on each side of your body. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, though genetics play a role.

What are common symptoms?

Arthritis in your hand can result in pain, swelling, and the sensation of clicking and grinding in your joints. Your range of motion, pinch, and grip strength can all be affected.

Symptoms of arthritis can include:

  • Pain in the joint and beyond
  • Loss of motion
  • Stiffness
  • Grinding, clicking, or cracking with motion
  • Swollen, red, tender, warm joints
  • Joint deformity
  • Bony nodules
  • Nighttime pain
  • Weakness

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Evidence of arthritis wear and tear can be seen on x-rays. Your hand surgeon will use your personal history, physical examination, x-ray results, blood tests, and other findings to diagnose your arthritis.

What are my treatment options?

Unfortunately, to date there are no known medications or treatments that can prevent arthritis. Yet many treatments are available to minimize symptoms. New medications and surgical treatments that provide pain relief can help you return to many everyday activities.

Treatments for your osteoarthritis include:

  • Lifestyle changes (modifying or stopping activities that cause pain)
  • Exercise and strength training
  • Applying heat or ice
  • Splinting
  • Massage
  • Water therapy
  • Taking pain medications such as acetaminophen
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen
  • Taking celecoxib
  • Injecting joints with cortisone
  • Gently exercising joints
  • Surgery

Your rheumatoid arthritis options also include:

  • Taking medications to slow progression
  • Taking disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs
  • Taking biologic agents
  • Taking prednisone
  • Surgery
  • Joint fusion
  • Joint replacement

What can I expect my results to be after treatment? 

Everyone responds to treatment differently. The primary focus is to reduce your pain, improve your motion, and to slow the progression of the disease. With arthritis, treatment can be ongoing and may include adapting your everyday activities in order to decrease your symptoms and improve your function.

How long until I’m better?

Your recovery time depends on the severity of your arthritis. A few arthritis-related disorders can be completely cured with proper treatment. Most forms of arthritis however are long-term (chronic) conditions.