Arthritis is a condition that causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and it commonly affects the hands because of their frequent use. Arthritis of the hand develops as the cartilage protecting the bones of the finger joints wears down over time. Over the years, as stress is put on the joints, cartilage wears thin and sometimes even erodes completely, resulting in stiffness and pain. Arthritis of the hand may cause the joints to lose their normal shape and limits the motion of the joints within the hand. It occurs more frequently in older individuals, as a result of normal wear and tear over time, that causes cartilage to wear away.
The definitive symptoms of arthritis of the hand are pain, swelling, stiffness and tenderness, although the pattern and intensity may vary. Some individuals feel that the inflamed joints may feel warm or hot to the touch and others may have cysts that develop on the ends of the joints. Damaged cartilage and bone rubbing together may cause a sensation of grating or grinding when the hand is moved.
Treatment for arthritis of the hand focuses on relieving pain and addressing symptoms. It is commonly treated with a combination of methods that may include medication for pain and discomfort such as:
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Prescription pain relievers
- Corticosteroid injections
Splints may also be used to help support the affected joint and to ease the stress placed on it during frequent use and activities. In severe cases, surgery may be required to smooth irregular tissue surfaces, or to reposition or replace joints through arthroscopy.