Arthritis of the Hand and Wrist

Arthritis is an inflammatory condition of joints. There are several types of arthritis and the most common type is osteoarthritis or wear-and-tear arthritis. Arthritis affects various joints in the body and the arthritis in hand affects the joint at the base of the thumb.

Symptoms

Arthritis may also affect the joints of other digits and the symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness, and malformation all of which interfere with use of the hand.

Causes

Arthritis is often seen in people aged over 40 years however may affect people of all ages. The most common cause is wear-and-tear, as you age you are more prone to develop arthritis. Also, traumatic injuries, fractures and joint dislocation make you more susceptible to develop arthritis. Certain types of arthritis are more common in women than men as in the thumb arthritis.

Types

There are over several types of arthritis. The most common are:

Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is also called as degenerative joint disease; this is the most common type of arthritis, which occurs often in older people. This disease affects cartilage, the tissue that cushions and protects the ends of bones in a joint. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage starts to wear away over time. In extreme cases, the cartilage can completely wear away, leaving nothing to protect the bones in a joint, causing bone-on-bone contact. Bones may also bulge, or stick out at the end of a joint, called a bone spur.

Osteoarthritis causes joint pain and can limit a person’s normal range of motion (the ability to freely move and bend a joint). When severe, the joint may lose all movement, causing a person to become disabled. Disability most often happens when the disease affects the spine, Knees, and Hips.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: This is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune system (the body’s way of fighting infection) attacks healthy joints, tissues, and organs. Occurring most often in women of childbearing age (15-44), this disease inflames the lining (or synovium) of joints. It can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in joints. When severe, rheumatoid arthritis can deform, or change, a joint. For example, the joints in a person’s finger can become deformed, causing the finger to bend or curve.

Rheumatoid Arthritis affects mostly joints of the hands and feet and tends to be symmetrical. This means the disease affects the same joints on both sides of the body at the same time and with the same symptoms. No other form of arthritis is symmetrical. About two to three times as many women as men have this disease.

Post-traumatic arthritis: Arthritis developing following an injury to hand, wrist or elbow is called as post-traumatic arthritis. The condition may develop years after the trauma such as a fracture, severe sprain, or ligament tears.

Psoriatic arthritis: This form of Arthritis occurs in some persons with psoriasis, a scaling skin disorder, affecting the joints at the ends of the fingers and toes. It can also cause changes in the fingernails and toenails. Back pain may occur if the spine is involved.

Diagnosis

Your doctor can usually make the diagnosis of thumb arthritis by examining the thumb. X-rays of the joint may be taken to know the severity of the disease and to determine any bone spurs or calcium deposits.

Conservative Treatment Options

Nonsurgical treatment methods for relieving pain in an arthritic joint include activity modification, pain medications, and use of splints, and steroid injections.

Surgery

Surgery is usually considered if nonsurgical treatment fails to give relief.

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