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How Arthritis Can Affect your Hands

Jan 28, 2015

There are many joints that make up your hands and wrists that all work together to perform small motions such as threading a needle or turning a doorknob. However, dealing with arthritis can make these simple motions difficult and painful. If you’re dealing with debilitating arthritis, you understand how challenging it can be to perform daily tasks. Keep reading to learn more about how arthritis can affect your hands.

Arthritis is an inflammation of joints which causes a great deal of pain when these joints are in use and when they are still. In healthy joints, the ends of bones are covered with cartilage that helps them glide smoothly during movement. However, arthritis causes this cartilage to wear away, movement becomes painful, and swelling occurs.

The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is known as the ‘wear and tear’ disease, and causes cartilage in certain joints to wear away. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that affects the small joints of the hands and feet first and involves the lining of the joints. This autoimmune disorder attacks its own tissues and can create additional joint problems. Rheumatoid arthritis is frequently seen in people over the age of 40 and is most common in women.

The symptoms that you’ll experience when dealing with arthritis include dull pain and burning sensations. The use of the affected joints typically makes pain and stiffness worse. In some cases, resting your joints can minimize pain. Other symptoms include:

  • When the affected joint becomes inflamed, it may feel warm to the touch.
  • Swollen joints will also be tender to the touch.
  • You may experience a grating or grinding feeling when moving the joint due to the damaged cartilage surfaces. You may also notice cracking or clicking.
  • The swelling of joints in your fingers, hands, and wrists will limit your movement in some cases.

If you’re dealing with these symptoms and arthritis has made daily living a struggle, contact your doctor for an evaluation. Your physician will perform a physical evaluation on your hands and wrists and order X-rays and other tests in order to diagnose arthritis.

While there is no cure for arthritis, there are some treatment methods that target your symptoms and help reduce pain. These methods focus on minimizing swelling to reduce pain and prevent further joint damage, and may include the following:

  • Stop or change activities that require using arthritic joints
  • Apply hot or cold compresses to the joint to reduce pain and swelling
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Steroid injections
  • Physical therapy – gentle, repetitive exercises can help you regain range of motion

After a few weeks or months of utilizing these non-operative treatment methods, your hands and wrists should start to feel better. If they haven’t reduced your pain and your arthritis is getting progressively worse, it may be too severe for non-operative methods.

There are several different procedures available to treat arthritis depending on the specific arthritis you’re dealing with. These procedures include reconstructive surgery, joint fusion, and joint replacement. Treating arthritis with surgery is typically very effective in reducing pain and restoring function.

If you’re considering undergoing surgery to reduce painful symptoms of arthritis in your hands or wrists , click here to download our e-book, How to Choose an Orthopaedic Surgeon. This educational guide will provide you with all the information you need to find a reputable surgeon you can trust.