The term arthritis is a generic word for over 100 different conditions. Arthritis can occur in both children and adults and has many different causes. The hands are just as susceptible to arthritis as other joints but arthritis in the hands can cause more disability, simply because the use of the hands is so important in daily life. Here’s what the Florida Hand Center wants you to know about symptoms and possible risk factors for arthritis in the hands.
Symptoms of Arthritis in the Hands
The most common symptom of any kind of arthritis is joint pain. It is typically worse in the morning and may get better throughout the day. However, it can also become worse with overuse. Inflammation may cause heat and redness in the affected joints, and swelling may also occur. In severe cases, a grinding or cracking sound can occur when the affected joint moves. Over time, the joints may become distorted and less flexible. Possible causes include:
Trauma, such as broken bones, resulting in traumatic arthritis. The damage to tendons and cartilage may not be obvious at the time, but arthritis can appear in the area years later.
A misalignment of one or more joints in the hands can cause excess friction, leading to increased cartilage wear. Without the protecting cartilage, eventually, bony surfaces rub together, causing inflammation and pain.
Repetitive hand movements are more likely to cause osteoarthritis, which results from “wear and tear” on the joints. Certain occupations can increase the risk – anything in which the hands are used constantly to perform repeated tasks.
Women are more likely to develop hand arthritis, especially osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In people 71 and older, the rate is nearly double for women compared to men.
Age increases the risk of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis, although some forms of arthritis can also occur in children.
Genetics play a role in many diseases, and arthritis is one of them. If you have a family history of hand arthritis, it increases your risk of developing this condition.
Obesity is one of the more surprising risk factors for arthritis of the hands. While it makes sense that obesity can cause increased wear and tear on weight-bearing joints, some researchers have found a connection in hand arthritis. This may be related to changes in the body’s biochemistry – such as chronic inflammation – and its effect on joints.
Infections can cause septic arthritis in the joints.
Treatment and Cure
In many cases, there is no real cure for arthritis in the hands. The key is medical management to treat symptoms. Medications called anti-inflammatory drugs are often helpful. Splints and braces can help support the hands, especially at night. While gentle exercise is important, overdoing it can cause a flare. If the joints become badly deformed, surgery may be necessary to restore some degree of flexion and improve range of motion.
If you have the symptoms of hand arthritis, it’s important to seek treatment early. Delay could result in permanent disability. Please contact our office at the Florida Hand Center for an assessment and recommendations.