Hand Arthritis

Arthritis of the Hand

Arthritis is an inflammation that causes stiffness, swelling and pain in your joints. Arthritis of the hand most commonly occurs in three areas:

  • Distal Interphalangeal Joint (Joint closest to the fingertip)
  • Carpometacarpal Joint (Joint at the base of the thumb)
  • Proximal Interphalangeal Joint (Middle joint of a finger)

Arthritis cannot be cured. It is a degenerative disease that affects the joint. If arthritis of the hand is left untreated it will get worse over time. Protective cartilage around the joints of the hand will continue to break down, which will continue to limit function in the affected finger or thumb joint and cause more pain.

While there are many forms of arthritis, the hand is usually affected by one of the following forms of the disease:

Osteoarthritis – the most common form of arthritis. Also known as “wear and tear” arthritis. Osteoarthritis commonly begins in a one joint.

Rheumatoid Arthritis – The symptoms associated with Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis can be similar. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease that is primarily treated with medication prescribed by a rheumatologist or a primary physician. This form of arthritis commonly occurs in several joints at once.

Post-Traumatic Arthritis – a form of Osteoarthritis that occurs as a result of an injury to a joint. A fracture or dislocation are examples of traumatic injuries that may lead to arthritis. An injured finger or thumb joint commonly become arthritic over time. Also known as PTA, Post-Traumatic Arthritis can develop at any age and as the result of any kind of acute physical trauma.

Diagnosing Osteoarthritis Of The Hand

A doctor will carefully examine your hand other joints for any signs of arthritis. An X-ray and possibly additional imaging test are used to find signs of degeneration, cartilage loss, and the formation of bone spurts. The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, medical history and family history.

Treatment for Osteoarthritis Of The Hand

Rheumatoid arthritis is primarily treated with medications prescribed by a rheumatologist and may benefit from Cortisone Injections. Conservative treatment options for Osteoarthritis of the commonly include:

  • Activity Modification
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medication
  • Cortisone Injections
  • Exercise
  • Hand Therapy
  • Heat
  • Ice
  • Immobilization (Splint)
  • Pain Medication

Surgery for Osteoarthritis Of The Hand

If conservative treatments have failed to provide an acceptable amount of pain relief or restore function to an affected joint, surgery may be recommend based on a patients individualized needs. Depending on the severity of a patient’s condition and which joint is affected, one of the following surgical procedures may be used by an orthopedic hand surgeon to provide pain relief:

  • Joint Fusion (Arthrodesis)
  • Joint Reconstruction
  • Joint Replacement