Many of the aches and pains associated with aging are arthritic symptoms. This condition strikes the joints in the body, many of which are in the hand. Understanding more about it is helpful in getting the most appropriate treatment. A free hand screening from a hand surgeon can reveal whether the condition is present and the extent of any damage it has created.
There are several forms of arthritis: osteoarthritis (most common), rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. Patients with arthritic symptoms might suffer from one or more of these conditions. All represent an inflammation of one or multiple joints, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Depending on which type a patient has, these are the most common joint symptoms:
- Restricted range of motion
Osteoarthritis causes the breakdown of cartilage. This is the hard tissue covering the ends of bones at the point where they create a joint. Osteoarthritis primarily affects the knees, hands, wrist, back, hips, ankles, and neck.
Physicians consider RA a systemic autoimmune disorder. It initially strikes the synovium, the substance that makes up the lining of joints. The patient’s immune system attacks joints by mistake, creating an inflammation that thickens the synovium. The principal joints affected are the hands, ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, and feet.
Psoriatic arthritis is in the autoimmune category as well. People with a history of psoriasis, a scaly, red plaque-like patch of skin, can develop this condition at some point. The treatment is localized control of the inflammation—there is no cure for this condition as of yet.
The Cleveland Clinic notes that among patients older than 60, osteoarthritis causes joint damage in around 60 percent. Beyond age 75, the figure rises to 80 to 90 percent. RA strikes roughly 1 percent of adults and usually develops between 20 and 40 years of age.
According to UConn Health, the three sites in the hand most prone to osteoarthritis and associated hand pain are the base of the thumb, the last joint nearest the fingertip, and the middle finger joint. Two types of hand surgeons frequently see are small joint and basilar joint (thumb) arthritis.
Hand Treatment Options
The primary options for RA treatment are medications to slow disease activity or joint replacement surgery. Non-surgical osteoarthritis treatments typically include anti-inflammatory medications, resting the joint, splinting or utilizing soft sleeves, heat, and injections of cortisone.
For individuals with small joint disease, therapeutic options are drugs, steroid injections, splints, and surgery. However, if the patient reports no significant pain, the condition might not require any treatment.
While many patients do not undergo surgery, it is an option when conservative treatments have been unsuccessful. The two types of procedures are joint replacement and fusion.
Basilar joint pain responds well to treatment that begins with a steroid injection plus a brace. Some patients benefit from topical medications, heat, or ice. If this fails to cause sufficient improvement, a hand specialist might recommend considering surgery. Carpal metacarpal arthroplasty with tendon transfer is now a standard procedure for arthritic pain involving the basilar joint. This hand treatment is an outpatient procedure usually performed in an ambulatory surgery facility.