Arthritis is a catch-all term for conditions that make the hand joints stiff, painful and sometimes swollen or red. In the hands, arthritis can make it difficult to type, button your clothes or perform many other daily tasks. Hand pain is not necessarily arthritis. However, if you have hand pain, you may benefit from some form of hand treatment. Here’s more information about arthritis and hand pain, courtesy of the Florida Hand Center.
Hand Pain Causes
Arthritis is one of the most common reasons for hand pain, especially in older people. There are over 100 different kinds of arthritis, but the two most likely culprits are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and degenerative arthritis. Overuse or repetitive motion syndrome is another reason your hands may hurt. As the term implies, it occurs because you keep repeating the same motion, leading to strain and inflammation in the soft tissues. Carpal tunnel syndrome can also cause both hand and wrist pain.
Blood Tests for Arthritis
Because there are so many different kinds of arthritic conditions, there is no single blood test for all of them. However, several blood tests can help in the diagnostic process. Your doctor may order more than one and they may be repeated periodically. Your doctor may also perform X-rays in addition to the following blood tests:
- Rheumatoid Factor (RF) – The RF test measures proteins your immune system creates when it attacks healthy tissue. If it’s above 20u/mL, you probably have RA. It can also be an indicator of lupus.
- Anti-cyclic Citrullinated Peptide (anti-CCP) – this test measures proteins made by the body when inflammation is present. Like the RF, a test above 20u/mL is considered high. This is used specifically to check for RA.
- Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) – also called a sed rate, this reading is low in healthy people and high in those who have inflammation. Normal readings vary from 0-30 mm/h depending on age and gender.
- C-Reactive Protein (CRP) – another protein in the body, made by the liver. This is an early warning sign, as the CRP often rises before you actually develop symptoms of inflammation.
- Antinuclear Antibody (ANA) – auto-immune disorders like RA cause an increased ANA level; it can also be a sign of other autoimmune disorders, like lupus.
Medical treatment of any kind always depends on the particular condition causing the problem. For example, degenerative problems are usually managed with conservative therapy. RA may progress to the point where surgery is necessary because of joint deformity. Carpal tunnel syndrome might be managed with a splint. All of these conditions may benefit from anti-inflammatory medications. Physical therapy is another hand treatment strategy to help maintain function and increase flexibility.
Hand pain is a sign of a problem. Don’t ignore it, as you could wind up with permanent impairment. Instead, please contact the Florida Hand Center for a free hand screening by calling 941-625-3782. We have office locations in Port Charlotte and Fort Myers and offer state of the art diagnostic techniques, minimally invasive treatments and more services for pain in the hands.